In just a few hours there will be a pre-release party, just one of several events launching the Life Before The Lottery: Living Beyond The Bucket book into the realm of public view. Eight months after the initial Kickstart, the words are written and the printing press finally finished, yet the real work is far from over. But for now, today, it’s time to curl my hair, put on some cute shoes, and raise one of many toasts in celebration to those who have pulled and cheered for this project. I am humbled, grateful, and a little embarrassed by all the support. This is amazing.
The Amazon pre-order link posted slightly earlier than originally anticipated (thanks Amazon robots), leading to a “temporarily out of stock” situation just days before the planned release happening September 22, this Monday. On one hand, I can freak out. On the other hand, it’s actually worth a smile. This book is full of failure stories. Maybe a highly inconvenient time to be “out of stock,” but completely worth a giggle because I could be battling an entirely different problem…a book no one wants to read sitting in a warehouse somewhere in Indiana.
No matter what Amazon does or does not have at any given moment, I have several opportunities over the next two weeks to hug real live souls who have been pulling for this, rooting for this, or are even just plain curious. And for that, I am extremely grateful. It takes a village to publish a book (thank you to the teams of people, brilliant minds, and talented individuals involved in this!) It takes even more to fight fears, distractions, disappointments, self-doubts and naysayers. But we’re here. We made it. It’s happening. I was told to go get it, and it’s officially been “got.” Thank you Lord!
So whether Amazon gets it together in time for Monday’s official online release or not, whether people show up at the upcoming launch events or not, or whether this thing moves or not–I can smile and say the risk was worth it. Check. I am trusting this book and the words in it will make it into the right hands with the right hearts at the right time and be exactly what’s needed at just the right moment. (Or whenever Amazon feels the need to do so. *giggling*)
So cheers to book launches and all that goes with it!
Amazon likes a big boom, so we’re hosting an online launch party Sept 22nd & 23rd to see just how far up the rankings this can get. There’s a 24 hour window to do this, so we’re focusing on the 22nd & 23rd. Thank you for helping to get the word out. I’m believing that these words and these stories in this book will get into the right hands with the right hearts at exactly the right time. You can help that happen. Share, post, re-post, tweet and email away the amazon link and let’s see what happens. (http://tinyurl.com/amazonashleebratton)
(Kickstarter backers who participated in a package that included book perks can pick up their “thank you goodies” at one of the events. Or for our out-of-stater supporters, fill out the upcoming form coming to your inbox so we know where to send your goods!) This has been an amazing experience, thank you for being a part of this.
1) The Pre-Release Happier Happy Hour – South Fork
Friday, September 19th 4:00pm-6:00pm Rio Grande Club in South Fork, CO
2) Official Launch Party – Denver
Friday, September 26th 5:30pm-7:30pm The Book Bar: 4280 Tennyson Street, Denver, CO 80212
3) Book Release & Signing – Vail Valley
Friday, October 3rd 4:00-6:00pm The Bookworm of Edwards: 295 Main St, Edwards, CO 81632
It seems so far away and yet so much closer than I ever thought possible. This last February I pulled the trigger on a Kickstarter project and the troops rallied behind the dream of publishing a book on the 30×30 List. That was February. Fast forward to right now and in 5 weeks, we’re going to launch a book.
Wow. We’re 5 weeks out from launch time! Layout is done, the printers are printing, just signed the warehouse contract today, Amazon’s on board, local book stores are stocking up, and now it’s time to party. I’ve learned about ISBN’s, copyright, legal jargon, pricing, content editing, copy editing, font choices, layout design, epigraphs, social media campaigns, press releases, warehouse logistics, and so much more of the nitty gritty details that go into publishing a book than I ever wanted to know.
But now I know. And now it’s time.
Save the date for one of the upcoming book launch events, grab a friend and come raise a toast to all involved in this beast of a book! Thank you for believing in this project and backing a dream. It’s happening. *pinch pinch* Can you believe this whole process began in February? Thank you for being a part of this. This could never have happened without you. Let’s celebrate!
Friday, Sept 26th @ The Book Bar in Lakeside
4280 Tennyson St, Denver, CO 80212
Friday, Oct 3rd @ The Bookworm of Edwards
295 Main St, Edwards, CO 81632
4:00-6:00pm (A happier happy hour)
Although a city girl at heart, I’ve had the unique opportunity to experience country bumpkin life. I’ve lived in big cities and small towns and been happy in both, each having their different types of blessings and opportunities and lessons to be learned. (I’m on the “bloom where you’re planted” program.) I can see why people can thrive or tank in either setting.
Recently, in my country bumpkin life I’ve thoroughly enjoyed going through an entire cycle of growing food in a garden and all the lessons that go with that — lessons from a greenhouse to be precise. As a city girl I never thought I’d be the type to enjoy playing in the dirt, wrangling hoses and watering systems, or battling bugs. Correction, I do not enjoy battling bugs. Ever.
But as I carried a basket of fresh vegetables picked from said greenhouse, I started realizing all that I’ve learned in the short time I’ve had the opportunity to be a garden girl. There are valuable lessons to be learned from a greenhouse.
1. Prep work is never fun, but oh so necessary.
Making the decision to grow something—be it flowers, herbs, vegetables or something else is just the initial step–but there’s a lot to be done between the planting and picking of a garden. Besides doing research and gaining knowledge on what grows best when and where, there is effort involved in making the investment to order seeds and equipment and do the dirty work to prepare the ground and soil for planting. You can’t just put seeds in the ground and expect something to grow. I wish.
Prepping the bed
First the soil must be cleared of all the junk and hindrances of past use. This includes getting rid of rocks, breaking up hard soil, getting rid of any weeds, and then replacing it and replenishing it with fertilizer and filler. Things won’t grow in hard crusty ground. New life and growth happens in soft, rich soil. It must be prepped and tended well before anything goes in it. Just as in real life, if we want good things to happen in our future, we must prep our present and clear it of the junk from our past that will prevent any kind of new growth. We are in charge of creating and prepping the environment in which we want to see growth and change. This requires a conscious decision, can get a little dirty, is not all that fun, but is oh so necessary. Doing this is the key to getting what we want later on.
2. There are no instant results.
Wouldn’t it be fabulous to just drop some seeds in the dirt and come back the next day and have strawberries and blooms? Unfortunately, that’s not the way it works in the gardening world and that’s not the way it works in real life. I knew this going into this greenhouse endeavor, but I’ll admit it can be a little demotivating to go in every day and all you’re watering is dirt. For months there are no signs of life or change whatsoever. Without the hope of a future harvest, it can feel pointless. But what we don’t always realize is what’s going on under the surface. In gardening, the seed goes into the soil, has to die, and then it slowly starts the process of germination and growth as it’s watered, tended, and cared for.
Welcome to the greenhouse
First peek at the greens!
When it comes to our dreams and future, it’s very much the same. There may be months if not years of effort in doing the right thing, making choices and sacrifices without seeing one shred of improvement or movement. If we don’t understand this process it can be all too easy to give up when we don’t see instant results. Resist the urge to base progress on current circumstances. Keep watering your dirt.
Just as the farmer and gardener sow seeds in the ground of the kind of product that they want, having to wait and trust that the process will lead to a harvest, we have to sow into our dreams and our futures and be willing to wait and “water” them before we ever even see any progress or results. There are sunny days and rainy days, both are needed for results. Just because it looks dry and dull does not mean good stuff is not happening behind the scenes. Good things take time. Good things are worth the wait.
3. Tend and protect.
It’s so exciting to see the first leaves pop through the dirt. Green on brown is a beautiful combination. The first signs of life are something to smile about and can be extremely encouraging. Yet the work is far from over…but at least after all this time and waiting you can see that something’s happening. Signs of life!
I almost screamed the first time I saw holes in the leaves of the beloved plants in that greenhouse. Ok, who let the aphids and slugs in? This is where I learned that pests and other attacks will come and you’re not the only one who wants to enjoy the goodies. If these issues are not addressed, they will kill what you’ve been growing and waiting for. Bugs are awful, but they cannot be ignored. In the gardening world, did you know you can put empty tuna cans full of beer that attracts slugs and drowns the little buggars? I didn’t, but now I know. Or that sometimes you have to sacrifice one infected plant and pull it out in order to save the rest of the patch? Sad, but it works. It should come as no surprise that when going after our dreams and desires and making the effort to cross off our lists and go after what we really want, there will be setbacks and things that come to attack and derail our efforts. There are other parasites out there that are more than willing to enjoy our labor and devour what we’ve been waiting for. If ignored and left unaddressed, they will. It is so important to pay attention and protect our dreams. Stay focused, and be prepared to fend off discouraging words of others, distractions, and counterfeits that are like weeds to our wants. Have no mercy for slugs.
4. When harvest comes, pick!
It’s actually not my greenhouse, I’m just in charge of it and have the pleasure of working it. I’m a worker bee with consumption benefits. I may do the daily watering and weeding, but the ultimate decisions and future of the greenhouse is not mine. The authority to harvest and decision to enjoy the goodies belong to another, but I do get to enjoy the benefits and all that goes with it.
It surprised me though that the owner of the greenhouse did not do anything once notified that the flowers were in bloom and the crops were ready. They were too busy. I thought they’d be excited for the news, isn’t this what all this work and waiting has been for? Instead, they were weary and not ready for what it takes to bring it all in. Here was all this time and effort spent on creating this amazing produce and beautiful flowers, and I watched in disbelief as it was ignored and started to pass its peak. All these delicious vegetables and flowers were saying, “I’m ready. Time to enjoy!” Sadly there was no one but myself to enjoy and delight in them…and I certainly can’t consume all of them myself!
It seems like this should come as a no-brainer, but I find that in real life this can happen too. Sometimes we can become so focused on the fight and the project itself that we don’t realize it’s time to enjoy the rewards. If we’re not careful and paying attention, we can miss our harvest. Don’t miss the moment. Or we’re too tired or exhausted when it’s all done and aren’t up for harvest season when it arrives.
It can be difficult sometimes to slow down and truly recognize the moment and enjoy it when it comes, or believe we’re worth the celebration or reward. I am a big believer in celebrating the work and accomplishments of others. Celebrate birthdays, go to graduations, dance at weddings, coo at babies, and take time to acknowledge and love on those that have worked so hard for that moment. There’s too much in this life that pulls us down, don’t ignore the moments or the big (and little) wins that make us smile!
Just like in the greenhouse, often times our harvest and blessings in life can be more than we can use or enjoy by ourselves. I don’t think this is an accident. We are meant to be funnels and channels to get good things to others. Gardening, sowing and reaping are about multiplication–one little seed with the proper care can turn into an entire harvest that many others can enjoy and benefit from.
With the owner’s permission, I took my basket out to that little greenhouse and filled it with greens and goodies to distribute and give away. It was time. The harvest was ready even if the owner wasn’t. If I didn’t do it, it would just all rot and go to waste. How awful would that be? There was plenty for me, the owner of course, and even enough left over to drop off the neighbor’s house and to use as thank you gifts. I loved seeing their faces light up when I came bearing beets, tomatoes, garlic, mint, chives, onions, basil, and kale. There was so much more than I could ever use.
The best part is, it doesn’t stop here. This is a season. One of many. There is a specific season for each task and opportunity and soon it’s going to be time to start the cycle all over again and enter another season. It doesn’t stop with the crops and harvest I have right now, there’s so much more future growth. There will be new dreams to plant, new ideas to cultivate, and new things to enjoy with reasons to celebrate.
Who knew there could be so many lessons from a simple greenhouse? Far from any type of green thumb, yep, this city girl has a lot to learn from country bumpkin life…and is still growing!
With the July 4th holiday come and gone and the parades over and pie eaten, I can’t help but think about the concept of freedom and what it really means year-round. And what it doesn’t. We all know that “freedom isn’t free” and this particular holiday is a celebration with roots reflecting the price paid by those that sacrificed and had a vision of freedom, but what exactly is freedom anyway? And are we enjoying it to it’s fullest extent the way it was designed?
Freedom and liberty often comes with cracks
Go ahead, let your freedom flag fly
According to Webster’s Dictionary, freedom is a noun and “the power or right to act, speak, or think as one wants without hindrance or restraint.”
Freedom to me isn’t just fireworks, the right to vote, and rights given in a document. To me, freedom is in and of itself having a choice. If there is no choice and there are no options, then there’s an absence of freedom.
It’s called prison.
I love living in a country where there are choices and freedoms in almost everything we do and I never want to forget that the freedoms we have are not enjoyed everywhere. We are exceptionally blessed to have choices. What we have is truly unique. We have the freedom to live and work where we choose–there is not a preset caste system that determines what we can do and where. If I want to, I can be on a flight tomorrow and fly anywhere within the 50 states by only flashing a driver’s license. No visas, no proof of purpose, no waiting needed. That’s amazing.
There is an enormous freedom and amount of choices available in what I eat, consume, and spend my money on. I can go to different grocery stores, buy different brands of items, eat them at my leisure, or even throw them away. The choices out there in style and fashion alone on how I choose to represent myself is staggering. Is it a sweatshirt and yoga pants day? Or maybe some cute capris and a tank? Or is more of a business suit needed for what I’m doing? In one outfit choice I can change my entire appearance and choose to look chic, hippy, hipster, professional, preppy, athletic, casual, country, foo foo formal, or something in-between. I have the freedom to choose who to speak to, date, marry, and be in relationship with. No prearranged pragmatic marriages here. I may value their opinion, but my parents or family members don’t have the ultimate say in who I’m legally joined to. In today’s culture I have the choice in who I give my heart to and who to experience life with. (Thankfully!) That’s not the case in a lot of cultures. I have the choice of when, who, how, how fast, and how long to have connections with people–and thank God for that! Even the choices and options available in how we maintain those connections and communicate with one another is breathtaking. Dinners, dates, phone calls, email, text, Skype, Face Time, Facebook, social media, snail mail, pillow talk, or whatever kind of talk…there is an incredible amount of options to enjoy our “freedom of speech” in how we connect with others.
I have the choice in what I believe, what I worship, who I worship with, and where and in what I put my heart. Or what I don’t. Precious blood has been shed for this. Many have died to give and maintain this ultimate freedom. I will never fully know all the incredible sacrifices made for me to have and keep this freedom. That is probably one of the greatest freedoms of choice we have. We were wired for freedom, we were designed to make choices. From the very beginning our Maker gave us the power to choose–He did not make robots–He made free-will. The simplistic beauty of choice is so vital to our human spirit and seems so natural that it’s almost too easy to take it for granted.
But sometimes we go amiss in our freedoms. Freedom may be “the power or right to act, speak, or think as one wants without hindrance or restraint,” but that doesn’t mean that freedom doesn’t have consequences or results in what we act, speak, and think. Freedom is not independent of consequences. Although freedom entails and is directly connected with choice, it does not mean that those choices don’t have direct or indirect consequences. Freedom is not free. Freedom is directly entangled and intertwined with responsibility. We can have the freedom to choose poorly.
There is such a thing as a wrong choice. It doesn’t take long to see evidence of that. In some given scenarios, some options are better than others or more or less desirable. Sometimes we choose to not choose, and even that in and of itself is a choice. We can choose not to exercise our freedoms at all and in doing so, lose them. We are a byproduct of our choices. Big choices, little choices, everyday choices. Good, bad, and everything in between…our choices shape us and the world around us. Our choices and freedoms are not solitary, they very much so affect those around us.
The best part is, we have the freedom to recognize this and continue making choices to move ourselves in the direction we want to go. Choose to make a list, choose to write it down, choose to catch a vision. We can intentionally make choices to change our situation, or even maintain and keep the situation we’re in. No, we don’t have control over final outcomes or the choices of other people, but the sheer fact that we even have options to begin with is something to value in the highest degree. There is power in choice. There is power in freedom.
July 4th may be over and gone, but our freedoms are not. Be powerful, be free. Make good choices. Make bad choices. Enjoy it! QUOTABLE QUOTES FROM PEOPLE MUCH SMARTER THAN MYSELF:
Recently I experienced one thing that every little girl dreams about…pretty pretty princess hair. (Okay, girls dream about a lot of things, but I’m referring specifically to pretty princess hair.)
A friend conned me into attending a festival that in order to feel legit, one should really have a child under 10 years old with them. That apparently did not matter to us. Instead, we decided to make a day of it and I was treated to an entire afternoon of full on “kid fun.” This included riding an elephant, chowing down on a fair-style turkey leg, enjoying a deliciously dripping ice cream cookie, waving at a parade, seeing a magic show, and getting my hair professionally braided (complete with flowers AND glitter.) For those who have not fulfilled this childhood dream, I highly recommend it.
Although not officially on the Next List, there were several events that day that got crossed off an unofficial “mini-list.” (C’mon, not everything can make the official next list. There are however, bonus items that can be enjoyed as opportunities crop up. Actually, now that I think about it. I just might add it to the Next List just so I can cross it off! *te he*)
Little Back Story:
Years ago as a little girl I remember going to this same fair with wide eyes and wonderment wanting to experience all of this. I don’t know if it was the no-frills attitude of my mom or maybe possibly due to parental budget reasons, but for some reason I have good memories of the fair itself but I just never got to have the “whole” experience. There was left a longing for the hair flowers, the exotic elephant ride, and the overall princess treatment.
Fast forward years later and I found myself laughing as we flitted through the festival in the hot summer sun with a checklist in hand. We were on a mission. Giggling, we paid the $4 and rode the floppy eared gentle giant, staked out the perfect spot for the parade, and I tried so desperately to sit still for the intricate hair magic. I may be well into adulthood, but there’s definitely a little girl heart that wants to enjoy every bit of moments like these. That’s the beauty of being a full grown adult — should you choose to release the “inner child”, you have the power to make childhood dreams come true with your very own adult resources. The only thing you need to get is permission from yourself. It’s important to play. Always remember to play.
Who knows, maybe there are childhood desires that seem so menial but somehow deserve a spot on your list. Put them on there! Maybe it’s a museum, an art class, or a certain kind of animal that needs to be petted or hugged. Maybe it’s touching a slimy sting ray, swimming with dolphins, or getting your face painted. Ever want to ride in a parade? Meet Mickey Mouse? Win at tether ball? See a shuttle launch? Get a baseball signed at a game? Maybe it’s time to do it.
It doesn’t matter what the childhood dream is, don’t bury it. Resurrect those buried childlike desires. Create that list and let that inner geek out. Go play.
How to mess with a three-year-old: Put the princesses in all the wrong dresses.
I sat on the floor and watched how with one simple action–putting Belle in Cinderella’s dress–caused upheaval and confusion in the big blue eyes of the wee one with the blond curls. So without her looking, I switched them all.
It starts young. The need to play by the rules. For the boxes to be drawn and the need to fit inside them. Even at a young age there is a need for organization, security, “correct beauty”, and for our world to be right. For a three-year-old, this is especially true in princess world. Belle wears yellow, Aurora pink, Cinderella blue, and Snow White…well, we all know the poofy sleeves and headband she’s famous for. We learn there is a right way for a young lady to act and look, and the not-right-way. Do not, under any circumstance, do it differently. Do not change it.
Then somewhere along the way, someone messes up our dresses. They mess with our order, our routine, and our expectations. On the one hand, it can be extremely freeing and can open up a whole new world. In this case, I managed to sell her little mind on the idea that the princesses were going to have a fashion show and needed to wear each others’ dresses. I explained that’s just what girls do, they borrow clothes and it’s okay for them to wear different dresses. They like it. I could tell that deep down she wasn’t quite sure about this new concept, but didn’t at the moment have any argument to refute my adult logic. I figured I just opened up a whole new world for her….or probably wouldn’t be invited back to the playroom any time soon.
I sat among the tea sets, ponies, and princess costumes and couldn’t help but smile. How often does God, just to mess with us, switch something up. Not to be mean, not to make us cry–but just to be playful and give us new options and help us grow in our own little world of make-believe. Something that we never even thought possible and that seems completely ridiculous is suddenly set in front of us as an option. Maybe in the same way we can either choose to roll with the new scenario and expand our world of play…or kick Him out and not invite Him back.
In a brilliant act of stupidity, what did I do the other night? In a moment of sheer boredom I watched the season opener of The Bachelorette. Forgive me, but this TV show brings back good memories of a certain friend in California who’d bring over bad wine on a Monday night and giggle on my couch while we sat and laughed at our trashy choice in TV shows. After all, if you can’t be judgy with a girlfriend, who can you be judgy with? I digress.
Stupidist show on the planet. Whose bright idea was it to create a modern-day harem and sell it as an idea that a loving, lasting relationship can come out of it…with millions watching? And after umpteen seasons, who really watches it anyways? Apparently the other night, I did.
Dating or looking for “love” from a group of eligibles separated out and kept in waiting just for you, not a new concept. Harems. This concept has been around almost as long as…well, you get the picture, a long time. Check out the book of Esther in the Bible. Although not her choice–as a maiden in the king’s harem she saved a nation, but not by being catty and making out on the beach on national television. Interestingly, her story has redeeming qualities and some very valuable life lessons. (For a good study on Esther, check out Beth Moore’s take on it. Love it!) Not so the ABC version. Sadly, like the train wreck it is, I watched it anyways.
Here’s the pathetic part. For those that don’t know my background, my singlehood and recent “unattached” status can make some uncomfortable. I’ve had people on multiple occasions tell me I should actually be on the Bachelorette. No joke. Bless their hearts, but really? Ummmm…what part of me shouts out, “I want to be in a harem?” Really. The type of man who is attracted to that type of girl or would want that type of scenario…not exactly the type of guy I’m looking for! Besides, as a girl who loves to keep her private life private, what part of me shouts, “I want to make my dating life public and make out on national TV?” No parts. Zero. Negative.
Admittedly, like every other girl on this planet, there is a part of me that wants to be affirmed and be seen as beautiful and attractive. We women are wired that way. Our girl hearts want to be seen as desirable, attractive, and worth fighting for.
Admittedly, like every other girl on this planet, there is a part of me that wants to be affirmed and be seen as beautiful and attractive. We women are wired that way. Our girl hearts want to be seen as desirable, attractive, and worth fighting for. I think maybe that’s why I chose to go through with the opportunity to do a photo shoot a few weeks ago. As an event photographer, I’m used to being on the other side of the camera, where I’m more comfortable. This was a big deal for me.
There is a part of me that goes through all the “what-if” scenarios and wants to know–needs proof that if for some reason later on down the road if God asks me to remain single, if for some reason the white dress experience isn’t a part of the program and I’m asked to go through life without a “plus-one”…I need to know that it’s part of His plan and it’s not because I wasn’t cute enough. Sexy enough. Or not attractive enough. Sometimes a girl just needs to know–or needs to be reminded–she’s got it. *wink*
Before judging these statements, there is a constant battle out there assaulting our hearts with every magazine, advertisement, and product placement telling us that very thing. You’re not attractive enough, buy this to become so. Do this to become so. Keep your man happy by doing this or buying that or looking like her. It’s a multi-billion dollar industry.
If we somehow manage to not give in to these lies that bombard us around every corner, we’re seen as vain, haughty, delusional, over confident and conceited. If we do give in to these lies of not being enough, we become insecure, petty, needy, not confident and self-conscious. Either end of the spectrum is out of balance and unattractive. Every woman has beauty, is valuable, and has something to offer. Balance, ladies. Balance. (For more on this subject, check out the book “Captivating” by Stasi Eldredge. It’s a fascinating take on this subject.)
Every woman has beauty, is valuable, and has something to offer.
So anyways, in a moment of needing to validate my own personal cuteness, I had a little fun in a boudoir photo shoot. Never imagined I’d do something like that, but in a weird turn of events, I did it. And it was quite fun. *wicked smile*
Little background: As a wedding photographer, I often get approached to shoot boudoir sessions for brides who want to do a little extra something special for their man. Love the concept, just not my type of photography and not necessarily the type of business I want to promote or make money from. I decided a long time ago when a shoot accidentally took a turn in that direction that I wasn’t going to delve into that side of the business and that’s not how I was going to pay the bills. Not my thing. However, I did need to have someone trustworthy and professional to refer them to for those ladies who want to spice up and enjoy that part of their marriage. Soooooooo, I chose to check out and test out a photographer who specializes in that type of photography when I booked my bio portraits for the book. Two birds with one stone, perfect. I had to get professional bio shots for my upcoming book…and I also got to step into and have a little bit of fun feeling cute.
These pictures are just for me. Even if not a single soul ever sees the prints but me, I will know. I was beautiful. I got it. *winking* Don’t worry–I know I am worth more than a pretty picture, but I also need to know and remind myself when those attacks on my heart come that God made me beautiful and I am worth it, even if for the moment He doesn’t give me a solid long-term relationship or a man in my immediate future. Shallow, I know. But I need that right now.
That, and how much fun will it be to gift that man that gets to open the real package a little preview of what’s to come? For now, these pictures are just for me. Later on, for his eyes only. *evil grin*
When’s the last time you stepped out of your comfort zone?
No really, when was the last time? Was it something significant, like starting a business, moving to a new city, starting a new relationship, or maybe ending one? Or maybe something a bit smaller and not so scary, like trying a new type of food, taking a different route home from work, saying hello to that cute girl in class, or even a new haircut?
There’s just something about stepping out and trying something different that gives a little spark to the soul. It’s always outside the comfort zone where the magic happens.
I had to laugh at myself as I walked into a Noodles & Company this afternoon with my heart set on the penne rosa and allowed myself to be talked into trying one of their new entrees by the clerk behind the counter. It wasn’t just about the pasta. I laughed because I had literally walked in to the restaurant after figuratively stepping out of my own comfort zone earlier in the afternoon to get professional portraits taken for the bio of the “Life Before the Lottery” book being published later this summer.
As a wedding photographer, I am so used to being on the other side of the camera that I couldn’t help but squirm as I was on the wrong side of the lens. I did not enjoy the thought of being the center of attention and having a zoom lens in my face. Apparently I can dish it but I can’t take it. I thought about going about the cheap route and tossing a friend or family member my camera to take the required snapshot. That would have been comfortable…and cheaper. But then I decided to suck it up, buckle down, and actually book professional portraits. I obviously haven’t gotten them back yet, but I’m sure they’ll be worth the squirm.
So there I was, in full professional make-up that looked like hooker-wear and bigger-than-life fluffy hair ordering penne rosa at 3:30 in the afternoon. Fabulous. As I took the first bite of the new entree I immediately regretted caving. Dang it! The clerk was nice enough to see me struggling with my new choice and brought out my original go-to. No harm, no foul. Don’t worry, I didn’t go hungry.
As I sat there starving and sitting alone full make-up and all at the corner table, I decided to pat myself on the back. It’s not every day that one gets the opportunity to step out of their comfort zone on multiple levels. So go ahead, make a left instead of the usual right. Get that new haircut. Apply for that promotion. Call the girl. You never know what may happen. No matter what, chances are it won’t happen in the comfort zone.
It may not have worked out with the new pasta–and who knows, it may not work out with the pictures either–but life is way too short to not take risks. Even if it’s only pasta.
QUOTABLE QUOTES FROM PEOPLE MUCH SMARTER THAN I:
“Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.” – Neale Walsh
“If you want something you’ve never had, you must do what you’ve never done.” – unknown
“I’m not telling you it’s going to be easy. I’m telling you it’s going to be worth it.” – unknown
I read this post yesterday and absolutely loved it! Not one to often share the work of others on the blog but this post was definitely “share-worthy”. Creating a bucket list lifestyle and living life before the lottery encompasses treating yourself right and learning from your mistakes. This post is a great reflection of those lessons. Thank you to the original contributors!
“When you stop chasing the wrong things you give
the right things a chance to catch you.”
As Maria Robinson once said, “Nobody can go back and start a new beginning, but anyone can start today and make a new ending.” Nothing could be closer to the truth. But before you can begin this process of transformation you have to stop doing the things that have been holding you back.
Here are some ideas to get you started:
Stop spending time with the wrong people. – Life is too short to spend time with people who suck the happiness out of you. If someone wants you in their life, they’ll make room for you. You shouldn’t have to fight for a spot. Never, ever insist yourself to someone who continuously overlooks your worth. And remember, it’s not the people that stand by your side when you’re at your best, but the ones who stand beside you when you’re at your worst that are your true friends.
Stop running from your problems. – Face them head on. No, it won’t be easy. There is no person in the world capable of flawlessly handling every punch thrown at them. We aren’t supposed to be able to instantly solve problems. That’s not how we’re made. In fact, we’re made to get upset, sad, hurt, stumble and fall. Because that’s the whole purpose of living – to face problems, learn, adapt, and solve them over the course of time. This is what ultimately molds us into the person we become.
Stop lying to yourself. – You can lie to anyone else in the world, but you can’t lie to yourself. Our lives improve only when we take chances, and the first and most difficult chance we can take is to be honest with ourselves. Read The Road Less Traveled.
Stop putting your own needs on the back burner. – The most painful thing is losing yourself in the process of loving someone too much, and forgetting that you are special too. Yes, help others; but help yourself too. If there was ever a moment to follow your passion and do something that matters to you, that moment is now.
Stop trying to be someone you’re not. – One of the greatest challenges in life is being yourself in a world that’s trying to make you like everyone else. Someone will always be prettier, someone will always be smarter, someone will always be younger, but they will never be you. Don’t change so people will like you. Be yourself and the right people will love the real you.
Stop trying to hold onto the past. – You can’t start the next chapter of your life if you keep re-reading your last one.
Stop being scared to make a mistake. – Doing something and getting it wrong is at least ten times more productive than doing nothing. Every success has a trail of failures behind it, and every failure is leading towards success. You end up regretting the things you did NOT do far more than the things you did.
Stop berating yourself for old mistakes. – We may love the wrong person and cry about the wrong things, but no matter how things go wrong, one thing is for sure, mistakes help us find the person and things that are right for us. We all make mistakes, have struggles, and even regret things in our past. But you are not your mistakes, you are not your struggles, and you are here NOW with the power to shape your day and your future. Every single thing that has ever happened in your life is preparing you for a moment that is yet to come.
Stop trying to buy happiness. – Many of the things we desire are expensive. But the truth is, the things that really satisfy us are totally free – love, laughter and working on our passions.
Stop exclusively looking to others for happiness. – If you’re not happy with who you are on the inside, you won’t be happy in a long-term relationship with anyone else either. You have to create stability in your own life first before you can share it with someone else. Read Stumbling on Happiness.
Stop being idle. – Don’t think too much or you’ll create a problem that wasn’t even there in the first place. Evaluate situations and take decisive action. You cannot change what you refuse to confront. Making progress involves risk. Period! You can’t make it to second base with your foot on first.
Stop thinking you’re not ready. – Nobody ever feels 100% ready when an opportunity arises. Because most great opportunities in life force us to grow beyond our comfort zones, which means we won’t feel totally comfortable at first.
Stop getting involved in relationships for the wrong reasons. – Relationships must be chosen wisely. It’s better to be alone than to be in bad company. There’s no need to rush. If something is meant to be, it will happen – in the right time, with the right person, and for the best reason. Fall in love when you’re ready, not when you’re lonely.
Stop rejecting new relationships just because old ones didn’t work. – In life you’ll realize that there is a purpose for everyone you meet. Some will test you, some will use you and some will teach you. But most importantly, some will bring out the best in you.
Stop trying to compete against everyone else. – Don’t worry about what others are doing better than you. Concentrate on beating your own records every day. Success is a battle between YOU and YOURSELF only.
Stop being jealous of others. – Jealousy is the art of counting someone else’s blessings instead of your own. Ask yourself this: “What’s something I have that everyone wants?”
Stop complaining and feeling sorry for yourself. – Life’s curveballs are thrown for a reason – to shift your path in a direction that is meant for you. You may not see or understand everything the moment it happens, and it may be tough. But reflect back on those negative curveballs thrown at you in the past. You’ll often see that eventually they led you to a better place, person, state of mind, or situation. So smile! Let everyone know that today you are a lot stronger than you were yesterday, and you will be.
Stop holding grudges. – Don’t live your life with hate in your heart. You will end up hurting yourself more than the people you hate. Forgiveness is not saying, “What you did to me is okay.” It is saying, “I’m not going to let what you did to me ruin my happiness forever.” Forgiveness is the answer… let go, find peace, liberate yourself! And remember, forgiveness is not just for other people, it’s for you too. If you must, forgive yourself, move on and try to do better next time.
Stop letting others bring you down to their level. – Refuse to lower your standards to accommodate those who refuse to raise theirs.
Stop wasting time explaining yourself to others. – Your friends don’t need it and your enemies won’t believe it anyway. Just do what you know in your heart is right.
Stop doing the same things over and over without taking a break. – The time to take a deep breath is when you don’t have time for it. If you keep doing what you’re doing, you’ll keep getting what you’re getting. Sometimes you need to distance yourself to see things clearly.
Stop overlooking the beauty of small moments. – Enjoy the little things, because one day you may look back and discover they were the big things. The best portion of your life will be the small, nameless moments you spend smiling with someone who matters to you.
Stop trying to make things perfect. – The real world doesn’t reward perfectionists, it rewards people who get things done. Read Getting Things Done.
Stop following the path of least resistance. – Life is not easy, especially when you plan on achieving something worthwhile. Don’t take the easy way out. Do something extraordinary.
Stop acting like everything is fine if it isn’t. – It’s okay to fall apart for a little while. You don’t always have to pretend to be strong, and there is no need to constantly prove that everything is going well. You shouldn’t be concerned with what other people are thinking either – cry if you need to – it’s healthy to shed your tears. The sooner you do, the sooner you will be able to smile again.
Stop blaming others for your troubles. – The extent to which you can achieve your dreams depends on the extent to which you take responsibility for your life. When you blame others for what you’re going through, you deny responsibility – you give others power over that part of your life.
Stop trying to be everything to everyone. – Doing so is impossible, and trying will only burn you out. But making one person smile CAN change the world. Maybe not the whole world, but their world. So narrow your focus.
Stop worrying so much. – Worry will not strip tomorrow of its burdens, it will strip today of its joy. One way to check if something is worth mulling over is to ask yourself this question: “Will this matter in one year’s time? Three years? Five years?” If not, then it’s not worth worrying about.
Stop focusing on what you don’t want to happen. – Focus on what you do want to happen. Positive thinking is at the forefront of every great success story. If you awake every morning with the thought that something wonderful will happen in your life today, and you pay close attention, you’ll often find that you’re right.
Stop being ungrateful. – No matter how good or bad you have it, wake up each day thankful for your life. Someone somewhere else is desperately fighting for theirs. Instead of thinking about what you’re missing, try thinking about what you have that everyone else is missing.
I had another incident. I hate it when this happens. It had been awhile since the last occurrence so when I found myself living it yet again it had caught me off guard and I had forgotten how big of a problem I have.
I am directionally challenged. To the point where it’s beyond funny and just plain annoying. I can get lost in a hallway if given the chance. Although in this most recent case I found myself driving the completely wrong direction on I-25 (a highway in Denver I should be very familiar with by now) and didn’t realize it for about three exits as I was driving past the new giant Cabellas and apparently heading towards Colorado Springs. Great. Then I had to figure out how to redirect myself to where I really wanted to go. *sigh* I have issues.
I am very grateful to have friends and loved ones who thankfully don’t share this problem and keep me out of trouble most of the time, but when I’m by myself, look out! (Thankfully God tends to pair the lost with the un-lost! It’s a beautiful thing.) I feel reasonably intelligent in so many other areas but for some reason am missing the gene for this and am quite flawed in this department. Not one of my redeeming qualities!
The thing with being lost is that when you’re lost you don’t really know you’re lost until much, much later. One never really knows they’re lost at the moment they become lost, it takes time to figure out and usually by that point one has been lost for quite awhile. And because one has been lost for awhile it’s usually not that easy to just back up and get “un-lost” quickly.
I guess that’s why I like the idea of the 30×30 list so much, or the “bucket list/life list” concept. It’s an overall game plan or road map that keeps you on track to where you really want to go. Once the list is created and actually in writing (yes, put pen to paper and make it official), it’s a whole lot easier to recognize an opportunity in disguise when it comes up and then make the necessary choices to go down the path to crossing it off. It’s like pulling out the map to make sure you’re headed in the right direction. There may be different roads or options with varying factors, but the overall destination is the same.
My 30×30 list was like a map that kept me going in the direction I ultimately wanted to go, and for that I am so grateful. Surprisingly, I didn’t always recognize an opportunity to cross an item on the list because it didn’t look like what I had originally planned. Opportunities so often come disguised as something we never even considered an option. So often a random opportunity would come up that would need an intentional “turn” at that particular moment or I’d miss it altogether. Multiple times I remember thinking, “Is this it, is this my chance? Do I do it now or do I wait for a ‘better’ time?”
It’s like coming to a fork in the road–you can continue in the direction you were headed or you can make an intentional choice to go down a different path. Route changers. The destination may remain the same, but the route or the way you take to get there is adjusted. Highway verses back roads. A route change is very different than a destination change. These “route change” opportunities could be sneaky and if I didn’t have a list then I wouldn’t know that now was the time to act. (I can think of 3-4 items on my 30×30 list that wouldn’t have happened at all if I hadn’t jumped on the random opportunity that arose to take a different path. Just because the current opportunity didn’t look like how I originally thought it did not mean that it wasn’t my opportunity to do it now.) There’s just something gratifying about crossing an item off a list. It’s like arriving at your intended destination on time and in one piece. The scenery along the way may not be what was initially expected or there may be a few more U-turns than one would like, but the arrival is oh-so-sweet. It feels good.
You’ll be glad to know that I did figure out how to turn around that day on the highway and I did make it to my intended destination (a dinner at a friend’s house. It was lovely.) At the time I was pulling a U-ie I had to roll my eyes at my own silly mistake and I swore I would tell no one. This little incident just reminded me how much I need GPS and navigational instructions to keep me on track.
Life is always better when you can recognize an opportunity in disguise and know you’re headed in the right direction.
As in life in general, the 30×30 list/project/book has been experienced and is coming in stages. I think that’s designed on purpose. Maybe if everything happened all at once we wouldn’t be able to handle it.
So as I delve deeper into the 30×30 book publishing project and the world of book publishing, I am finding that this too comes in stages. Stage one, write the dang thing. Check. Stage two, read it. Check check. Stage three, find an editor, layout guy, author community, and book publishing gurus to tell you about all the other unknown stages and parts needed to actually birth a book. Check and check. Stage four…do it.
Wait. I got stuck on that one. The doing it part actually involves stage 3.5, find funding. So on that note, I have started a Kickstarter project for any and all who want to be a part of the publishing journey. Publishing is not a solo act. As soon as Kickstarter approves and publishes my 30×30 project (any day now), I’ll have exactly 30 days to fundraise the $8,500 it’s going to take to get this thing off the ground and in print. Kickstarter is an all or nothing thing. I either raise all of the $8,500 needed in 30 days or I get nothing. Daunting? Maybe to some. I did the math, and if every one of my Facebook friends donated $33.46, I’d be on my way to the printers. Cakewalk. (Ok, we all know it’s a little more complicated than that, because not every one of my Facebook friends has $33.) Personally, I think it’s quite fitting that the 30×30 book project has 30 days to raise the dough to do it. So let the kickstarting fundraising games begin! I can’t wait to high five my supporters and backers I continue on in the next stage and next chapter of this 30×30 journey.
Ok, that’s not exactly what happened. What really occurred was an out-of-the-blue invite from a long-time friend to join her for a long weekend up in Vancouver after she saw “Canadian Passport Stamp” on my Next List blog. What a pleasant surprise! I could’ve come up with a million reasons why I shouldn’t and couldn’t go. Instead, I dusted off my documents, set the date, and before I knew it we were giggling on the plane.
This reminds me of a lesson learned from my original 30×30 list…when given the opportunity, jump. Some things go in the “just because I can” category, and this particular cross-off is one of them. More than one item on my 30×30 list was crossed off simply by saying yes when it was time to say yes. The funny thing is, once my list was officially created, written down, and communicated and not just some idea in my head, opportunities started coming out of the woodwork to actually do them. The thing is, you just never know if and when the opportunity will arise again. Some of the best things in life happen when you choose to say yes when you could’ve said no.
“Some of the best things in life happen when you choose to say yes when you could’ve said no.”
In this particular case, my friend’s parents were temporarily stationed in the heart of Vancouver for a project for the next 6 months and were open for a visit from their lovable daughter…and apparently her friend. (That would be me. Growing up I was kind of the Kimmie Gibler of this family, and I guess even in adulthood nothing really changed. Maybe I’ll expand more on that some other time!) What it ultimately boiled down to was the fact that more than likely I would never have an opportunity to experience Canada quite like this ever again. The excuses had to go.
And I am so glad they did. Over the course of the trip I can now say that I’ve added a Canadian stamp to my passport (little mini lesson: you have to actually ask the customs agent for this…and hope you get a nice one), managed to purchase a Canadian lotto ticket, had a coffee in Whistler and waved to the Olympic rings, have officially eaten a Timbit, experienced a Canadian aquabus, molested some nice Canadian statues, walked over 14 miles in one day while playing tourist at the breathtakingly beautiful Stanley Park, and now know what loonies and toonies are. (For those of you who don’t know, loonies and toonies are Canadian money. Yeah, I didn’t know that either and quite honestly find the money titles a little amusing too.)
More than anything this was an opportunity to take a breath, nab a passport stamp, bust out my camera, say hello to some long-time friends, and enjoy a different part of the world I’ve never been to before in a way I will probably never get to experience again.
If there’s one thing I can pass along to those creating their own lists, it’s that random check-off opportunities will arise and when they do, no matter how ridiculous, scary, or ill-fit the timing…take them. This is something I am re-learning as I create my “Next List” and am watching unexpected check-off opportunities unfold.
Today I am officially unpacking from a journey that included almost four weeks, 7 cities, 6 flights, 4 states, 2 bus rides, 2 countries and ending in the overall culmination in the crossing off of 3.5 “Next List” items. (The .5 goes to the addition of 3 more states to my “visit all 50 states” goal. Pennsylvania, Washington, and if I really choose to count it–technically Delaware.) I must say, after all that I have an intense date with a stack of mail and a rather overwhelming laundry pile in my future. But that can wait–for now, I write.
This particular adventure, as exciting as it sounds on paper, was an emotionally charged and at times rather draining and challenging experience. As difficult and heart breaking as some parts were, I would not trade them for anything.
You see, not everything on my list is about good times and fun adventures. Whaaaaaaaaaaat? True story.
Due to some ex-boyfriend issues and some painful memories from the past, there are parts of the country and some specific places that I personally made off-limits and have chosen to avoid up until this point. It wasn’t until just recently that I was able to have the opportunity–and the courage–to face some of them head on. Ever dread a high school reunion, an encounter with a past love, or drive past an old childhood house and have to process both good and bad memories and feelings that go with them? Yeah, this trip was kind of like that.
When I put “East Coast Fall” and “Annapolis” on my Next List, they were items that were fully loaded with behind-the-scenes reasons as to why they made the list. I knew crossing them off would mean facing some ghosts from the past as I replaced them with new experiences in the present. Thankfully I was armed with some phenomenal support from friends and family as I did that. Fighting emotional battles like that unarmed is not a wise idea…gather your army and bring your own weapons.
I am a firm believer that we are designed and meant to live in freedom, but that does not come easily and we have to intentionally make an effort and fight for it. Some people choose not to fight, and their world becomes increasingly limited, restricted, and eventually stifling. Avoidance and procrastination can only last for so long until the very method we use to protect ourselves causes problems and hinders opportunities for good things in the future. Fighting for it comes in drumming up the courage and finding reasons to face the tough stuff. And as tough as it is, the rewards are worth it. They are so worth it.
If I wasn’t willing to make myself (and sometimes those around me) uncomfortable while facing some of those less-than-pleasant memories, I wouldn’t have been able to create and add new ones to the mix. Like photographing the Washington Monument on the last night it was lit in full scaffolding, getting lost while driving at night in less-than-stellar parts of D.C., running off eleven miles of tears through autumn leaves and cobblestone bridges, wine tasting at a friend’s winery in the afternoon sun in the hills of Virginia, trying three different versions of bad clam chowder, eating world famous crab cakes overlooking the Chesapeake bay, or waiting in line to get your picture taken (and sneak a touch when the guards aren’t looking) with the Liberty Bell.
None of these would have been possible if I was not willing to be uncomfortable for a moment. It’s in moments like these where growth happens. It’s in choosing to take a stand and fight through the tough stuff where freedom and life and new beginnings are found. So cheers to the “tough stuff” items and those who take a chance in order to move forward. And on that note, it’s time for me to move forward on that laundry and mail pile.
Sliding through the airport at 6:00am on a random Tuesday morning sans coffee, I noticed far more than I probably should have at that hour. As we were going through the standard stripping of shoes, belts, coats, jewelry and metals, I couldn’t help but notice the woman behind me becoming more and more agitated and riled up. Riled up is an understatement. Close to causing a scene would be a more appropriate way to describe the situation. Those she was talking to were not helping.
As one who was bitten by the travel bug long ago and had a good chunk of my 30×30 list heavily weighted in the travel bucket, I am no stranger to the airline industry. And as one who had a job requiring over 80% travel, over the years I’ve been stripped down, detained, missed flights, had luggage lost, and have all around been inconvenienced in all the standard ways travelers can be delayed and inconvenienced. Clearly she was upset at the inconvenience of the traveling policies in place at the airport and she was more than willing to voice them to anyone who would listen.
As I slid my trays through the x-ray, I decided I couldn’t keep quiet any longer. I calmly turned around to her and shrugged my shoulders as I said with a smile how grateful I was to be able to have the freedom to fly at a moment’s notice. Slightly louder I voiced how I loved living in a country where we have access to 50 states without visas, green cards, or months of paperwork and how I couldn’t believe how easily I can go from one end of the country to the other simply on a whim. And with the sweetest smile I could flash, I finished my little speech by saying that if all I had to do for that freedom is take off my shoes and prove my identity with a simple state driver’s license…I was more than willing to do that.
Needless to say that shut her up.
Does the 3 oz plastic baggie liquid rule make sense to most people? Or the shoe stripping and computer check? Maybe not to the average traveler. Can we ask questions and make snide comments regarding the ridiculousness of the inconvenience? Sure. Are there reasons these rules and policies are in place? Two towers and multiple non-disclosed prevented incidences that we’ll never ever know about say otherwise.
Yes, there are a lot of problems in our country. There are a lot of other blogs that can get into that. But if you want to complain about the travel troubles of our country, I highly recommend taking a trip to any other continent and country and attempt to jump through their hoops and abide by their travel policies and then tell me how awful the United States is. I dare you.
I double dare you to do it before I’ve had my coffee.
Lesson Learned: I Am An Excuse Maker…and I Am Out Of Balance
After I made my list I quickly discovered that there were multiple items that could be grouped into categories. In honor of the movie “The Bucket List”, I called them category buckets. I had a financial bucket, a travel bucket, a fitness bucket, a romance bucket, and a “just because” bucket. But some things on my list conflicted with other things on my list. My travel bucket conflicted with my financial bucket and my quest for adventure conflicted with my need for peace and stability. Right there I had a reason to give up, I couldn’t even agree with myself on what I really wanted! But I’ve dealt with a lot scarier things than conflicting interests, so I continued the balancing act and kept attempting to squish all the excuses that kept popping up. And I was full of excuses. But one of the ones that kept rising to the surface was the issue of time.
Little known secret I discovered…I have been given the same amount of time as everyone else. My day has the same 24 hours in it as the person sitting next to me. We’ve all been given 24 hours to our day, seven days to our week, and twelve months to our year. No one has been given any more or any less time. Period. Time is the great equalizer. No matter what your age, salary, occupation, background, childhood experience, family size, or gender…we all have the same 24 hours in a day. It’s how we use it that makes all the difference.
Time is an extremely valuable commodity. Just like money, we spend it. The things, reasons, and amounts that we spend our time on vary from person to person and situation to situation. We spend our time in a similar way we spend money—we spend it on necessities, pleasures and entertainment. (And we probably waste it on unimportant things more often than we’d like to think or admit.) Some of us are very good time managers, while others are not. Just because you are good with your money does not necessarily mean you are good at handling your time, and visa versa. And very often if we have a lot of one, we tend not to have a lot of the other.
I am not an expert in money management, nor time management. But they both play significant roles in the ultimate outcome of successfully achieving any type of goal. For example, I am admittedly a travel junkie and my 30×30 list was heavily skewed towards travel and adventure activities. With credit card waving wildly in hand I could’ve had half my list accomplished in 60 days if I wanted to (and trust me, I thought about it.) But I would’ve been in debt up to my eyeballs and that would not have helped me with the other items on my list in my financial and health buckets. Debt creates stress and stress creates health problems. I may have won in one bucket but completely tanked in the other two. If I went completely out of balance in one category, I would’ve jeopardized the success of my other goals in other categories. After creating my list I saw that I my financial bucket was quite full. I had umpteen # of travel related items, a desire for more education that would probably come with a hefty price tag and student loans, and goals of having my car loan and credit cards paid off.
I remember staring at my list and thinking that I had just written an impossible list of conflicting goals. On the one hand I had some very expensive dreams, and on the other hand I wanted to be financially more responsible and debt free. This required a bit of strategy.
I needed a game plan. I needed to get a handle on my financial bucket before I went out and played and crossed off things in my adventure bucket. Initially I sat down and had to figure out the ugly truth on where I stood financially in order to know exactly how big of a hurdle I had in order to meet my goals of becoming debt free. Not very fun but extremely necessary. So I spent the first few months and years focusing on my financial goals and paying off my credit cards and developing a game plan on how to pay for a master’s degree. Then later on I couldn’t stop laughing as things fell into place to pursue some of the travel items on my list. I was able to truly enjoy them since accomplishing one item in one bucket wasn’t burying me in another.
It may not be very fun, and possibly a bit humbling, but learning to crawl before you run is far better than tripping and falling on your face because you never mastered the fundamental basics of moving forward. If I had not been financially healthy first, I would have been forced to decline the opportunities that arose to go rafting in the Grand Canyon, cruise the Mediterranean, or see a Broadway play in New York because I would not have been able to afford them…or anything else for that matter.
So my question is this–what are you spending your time on? It would be interesting for just one week to record or take special note of exactly how much time we spend on the various activities throughout our day.
Answer Me This:
What is the average time you spend getting ready in the morning?
What is the average time you spend commuting to work or school?
What is the average number of hours you spend working?
What is the average number of hours you spend watching TV?
What is the average number of hours you spend on the internet or playing video games?
What is the biggest time sucker in your day?
In all fairness, I already had one. I just got it expanded and upped its cuteness factor. The original artwork was less art and just…well, old ink. Not a regret by any means, it just needed a little updating and TLC with an ink master. So onto the Next List it went.
Why? Really, I get asked that a lot. Whyyyyyyyyyy? Oh yeah, I see the judgment and snarky attitude behind the question. No, this item doesn’t go under the “just because I can category,” there was actually a lot of thought and effort involved in this one. And an appointment. Fully sober. With a pre-sketch. I will admit the actual re-inking took place in Vegas, but where else is one supposed to find a legit tattoo artist?
The whole re-ink experience did not exactly go as I had pictured. This seems a little scary since the decision–good or bad–is permanent. Believe it or not, there are expectations that need to be met when getting a tattoo.
Tat Lesson #1: Pick your shop and your tattoo artist wisely.
I researched and reviewed many tattoo shops in the area and was very specific for what I was looking for. I wanted a shop off the strip, had been around a long time, was appointment only, and of course clean and hygienic. When I had picked the shop and called to make an appointment, they put me in touch with one of their shop artists after I described what I wanted. With a little back and forth with texts and pictures with the artist to secure the appointment, I finally had a date to check another item off the Next list. I was a little less confident though when my chosen artist wasn’t on the website, didn’t have an example album of his work in the shop when we went in the day before to check the place out, and upon arriving the shop looked closed. I knew this whole thing was a little risky, but it was a risk I was willing to take. I just wanted to make it a calculated risk. Don’t worry, turns out he wasn’t on the website because he was the newest guy to the shop coming from a different shop in the area, had been tattooing for over 23 years, the shop wasn’t closed (just dark, it was an 8:00pm appointment after all), and his name was imprinted in the window and the logo. Relax. If getting a tattoo wasn’t a little sketchy it wouldn’t be as much fun.
Tat Lesson #2: Brush up on your social skills
I was on the table for over 3 hours. That’s a lot of time to stare at a ceiling and the same wall. You want to be nice to your artist, keep him happy, engaged, and awake (just kidding). Really, I now understand why people have ongoing relationships with their tattoo artist–you bond. This guy found out the backstory on the original tattoo, why the new one was important to me, made suggestions to improve the artwork, found out about some of my 30×30 and Next List items, what I wanted to do next…and all with a needle in his hand. Just know that it’s going to take longer than you think. It will always take longer than you think. That’s ok, you don’t want to rush greatness.
Tat Lesson #3: Know what you want
Don’t be that girl and don’t be that guy who goes into a shop and picks something off a wall. C’mon, this is permanent. Put a little thought and meaning into something you’ll have forever. Or until the next laser surgery. My tattoo artist entertained me with funny stories of what people had chosen…or how. (These stories were part of tat lesson #2: social skills. Yes, I completely laughed at other people’s expense.) I walked in with examples of two different sketches of the style I was looking for, along with giving him pictures ahead of time of my original tattoo. Unexpectedly, during the pre-consultation he actually talked me into a little something different than what I originally had planned. His suggestions made sense. He’s the expert, he’s been doing this for over 23 years, he’s seen the stupid decisions and mistakes, and he helped create something that I would ultimately be happier with down the road. Way to go tattoo man!
Tat Lesson #4: Know that it’s going to hurt I’m not just talking about the actual pain of getting it done, needles and all. I’m talking about the after-care. I was tender for over a week and had to choose my wardrobe carefully. Good thing I was just seeing friends in California the next few days–sweats it was! I did bring a friend to this little artwork session, but even they couldn’t handle it the entire time. Just know, no pain, no gain. Watching the process of the body healing is quite fascinating. Like a good girl, I followed the after-care instructions to a T. I really do like my new addition. I’ll like it even better when it’s fully healed.
So what did I get…and where? That’s for me to know and only an invited select chosen few to find out! C’mon, you really thought I’d post a picture? No way! I’m not that kind of girl. Sheesh.
The feeling of invisibility. Not being seen, not being heard. Being ignored. Being forgotten.
I walked through the hallways of the nursing home my Ginnymom has been living in since January after a series of strokes left her unable to stay in her home, and I realized part of what makes visiting her so difficult is walking by all the lives and wrinkly faces far past their prime. (I realize not everyone has a Ginnymom. For those of you who are unfamiliar with what a Ginnymom is…my adorable eighty-nine year-old grandma.)
It is human nature to want to connect, to be heard, to be loved, and to be valued. What do you do when someone seemingly is unable to do that? Is unable to respond? When there is no interaction and no way to communicate, it is far too easy to become invisible and fade into the background. Nursing homes seem to be a collection of people and lives who have faded into the background of a young and bustling society that has left them behind. The thing is, their value as a human being hasn’t changed, just their physical ability.
You don’t have to be old and in a nursing home to feel invisible though.
I had the opportunity to go to California a few weeks ago and visit and reconnect with friends. I drove past my old apartment, waved to my church, and had the chance to eat at some of my favorite restaurants. But the best part of the trip was seeing my friends and getting updates on each of their lives since I had left. I was quite surprised to find each of them in their own way and situation admitting their struggles with loneliness.
Some were married, some had gotten new jobs, others had recently become new moms. Each one in a different situation and life stage, but surprisingly all going through their own version of invisibility and loneliness. Not at all what I was expecting, but real nonetheless.
I remember how miserable and alone I felt during the time I created the 30×30 list. I felt invisible. Even though it was my list, it got me to focus on something other than myself. It created vision, reasons to interact, and it gave opportunities to move forward. The list created a connection to others around me in ways I never could have imagined.
Feeling invisible, forgotten, or left behind? You’re not the only one. Take a moment to look around and it won’t be hard to find someone else facing the same thing. We have the power and the ability to reach out and help others in ways we cannot help ourselves. So do. Find a way to be kind. Step outside your comfort zone and get beyond yourself. Go be good to someone. You’ll be surprised at who really needs it.
What would you do if given an unlimited amount of time and an unlimited amount of money? What would you want and what could you accomplish? Uninhibited, what would you do? Those can be scary questions.
These were the type of questions asked when creating my 30×30 list. It can be an uncomfortable and somewhat dangerous thing being truly honest with what you really want. Because that would mean you might actually have to make an effort to go and get it. Uh oh. It’s definitely easier not to ask yourself those type of questions, but life won’t ever be fulfilling if you don’t. I know, I was there.
I was miserable. Sitting in that coffee shop years ago playing hookie from a job that was unfulfilling and living in a city I felt was killing my soul, I realized I was 24 years old with a lot of life ahead of me. The question was, what did I want that life to look like? That was the first question. After taking some time to answer that first question on “what” I wanted, it was time to take a moment to think about the “how.” Thennnnnnnn I decided that maybe that wasn’t such a good idea after all. It’s not a good idea to get bogged down with the how. Focus too long on the how and you can get distracted and scared away from the what. Quite frankly, the how portion is where God gets to come in and do His thing. Don’t be fooled, God is not just some giant slot machine in the sky or a magic genie at your command. Get Him involved when you’re developing the “what” part of your list, then genuinely ask and trust Him for the “how” portion.
Fast forward several years later after crossing 29 of my 30 items and I am proof that He did. And that can be the other scary part…asking God. What if I ask for something and I don’t get it? What if the answer is no? I’d rather ask Him for a lot and only get half of what I asked for then ask Him for nothing and get all of that. Not only is it scary to admit to ourselves what we really want, it can feel slightly ridiculous or even intimidating asking God to enter the picture. It can feel like He’s so big and “up there,” and who am I to bother Him with my silly wants and desires? The truth is, He would like nothing better. God loves being involved with the details of our lives. After all, He’s the one that gave us those dreams to begin with. He’s just waiting for us to ask Him. Waiting, waiting, waiting. Sometimes we feel like we are waiting on Him when really He’s just waiting on us to get Him involved.
So do it. I dare you. I dare you not only to create your list, I dare you to give it to God. Tell Him. Submit your list to Him and trust that He will give you the right things at the right time. And if He says no, there’s a good reason. Trust me, I know. The one thing unanswered on my list–the one thing I just couldn’t make happen no matter how hard I tried–was the best thing that never happened. God sometimes answers us directly, sometimes He answers differently, sometimes He answers by delay, and sometimes He denies our prayer. No matter what the answer, it’s ultimately for our benefit. Number 29, own my own home, would’ve sunk me had it actually happened. I lived in California during the whole housing boom and bust, and if I had gotten my way, I would be busted right now. It wasn’t fun, but I thank God for His “no.”
Honestly, the whole home of my own thing is a slightly raw subject matter in my world. Is there a house in my future? Absolutely. Do I know when I’m going to get it or when it will happen for me? Not a clue. That’s not really up to me. But that desire is still there, I’ve given it over to the One who knows what He’s doing, and I just rolled that item onto my Next List. Oh, and don’t worry, I’ve created a secret mini list of must haves on this future house of mine to keep the hope alive. It includes a nice big yard for Scottie dog, double sinks in the master en suite, a soaker tub, and a fantastic porch/deck to put a porch swing or some adirondack chairs. HGTV is one of my favorite channels and I keep an Amazon wish list of decorative items to fill it. It’s always good to have a detailed blue print of what one wants. *Big smile*
“Delight yourself also in the Lord, and He will give you the desires and secret petitions of your heart.” Psalm 37:4 (AMP)
“And the Lord answered me and said, Write the vision and engrave it so plainly upon tablets that everyone who passes may [be able to] read [it easily and quickly] as he hastens by. For the vision is yet for an appointed time and it hastens to the end [fulfillment]; it will not deceive or disappoint. Though it tarry, wait [earnestly] for it, because it will surely come; it will not be behindhand on its appointed day.” Habakkuk 2:2-3 (AMP)
See it. Say it. Do it. Sounds like three easy concepts, but in reality doing them can be a bit trickier. But there is some truth and power behind those three phrases. If you can’t see it, or if there’s no vision, how are you ever going to be able to speak the words and do the actions in order to make it happen?
In order to build anything, you need a blueprint. Sitting down and creating your list (whatever you choose to call it), writing it down, and putting pen to paper is like creating a master blueprint of where you want your life to go. Drawing up a blueprint is sometimes a lengthy and detailed process, but oh-so-necessary. Blueprints are essential if you want to build anything lasting and worthwhile. (I should know–growing up in a household where my dad was a realtor and my mom was an interior designer, I’ve seen my fair share of blueprints!)
A contractor building a house needs to be able to first visualize and have a concept on what the house will look like, then create blueprints and write down the specifics regarding the dimensions and details of the house to be built. How big? How many bedrooms? What kind of style? What’s the purpose? Then the contractor has to speak and communicate to the other parties involved in order to share the vision, obtain the materials needed, and get the other workers on the same page so they’re all building the same house. If one construction worker buys materials for a Victorian home, another a log home, and another is trying to build a ranch style bungalow, there will be a mess.
And then finally there has to be action behind the blueprints, contracts, and purchased materials. Someone–or multiple “someones”–need to actually do the work in order for the house to be built and become a reality. If no one lifts a hammer, there will never be a home. Action cannot happen without proper communication, and communication never begins unless there’s a dream, a goal, or an objective. Without communication to keep everyone motivated and on track as they work, there will only be chaos. Without the combination of action, communication, and vision there will be no house, no finished product, no dream realized. It takes all three.
Ever driven by a neighborhood or a business that had been started but never completed? I’m always sad when I see dilapidated or unfinished buildings. There’s always a story behind it, but somewhere along the way this process of visualizing, communicating, and doing at some point broke down. If that’s just a physical representation, how much more of our own dreams are abandoned and unfinished in our own lives?
Are there any unfinished properties in your own world or unfinished dreams in your own heart? Are there things that you started but then never completed because something didn’t align in one or more of these three areas? Your list is your blueprint.
Sometimes we don’t even want to look in the direction of our abandoned dreams because it’s too painful. But if we can take a breath and find the courage to dig deep, break ground, and begin the process of seeing the dream once again, new life and new resources and new encouragement will begin to breed. You can begin to reconstruct an abandoned dream, or begin construction on a brand new one. But we have to be the head contractor of our own dreams and begin the process. Your list is your blueprint. We have to draw the blueprints and communicate to others who need to be involved in the process.
No one else is going to build your dream for you…they can’t, they don’t know what it looks like. But you do. Figure out what it is you want and then set your mind to do three little things—see it, say it, do it!
It’s time to celebrate in my world. Yesterday the 30 day self-imposed blog challenge was completed, which was a big win in and of itself, but that’s not the only reason to smile and do the dance of joy. Today I crossed off an item on the next list–one that I thought would take awhile to do due to the nature and difficulty of the endeavor. No, not hiking a fourteener (I attempted that the day before and failed. Big bust. More to come on that amusing story later.) Today is about Wheeler.
Wheeler Geologic Area. This natural wonder of rugged terrain and beautiful geologic formations is hidden in the 1.86 million-acres of the Rio Grande National Forest and is only accessed through 28 miles on a difficult to expert level ATV 4×4 trail or a 14 mile hike. For the past 1 1/2 years I’ve lived in Southern Colorado just minutes from the highway turnoff to Pool Table and Hanson’s Mill–the access trails that lead to the trailhead–and I just couldn’t quite seem to ever make it happen. Wheeler Geologic Area has called my name and beckoned to me and yet at the same time eluded and evaded me, somehow remaining just out of reach. Until today.
Let me take a second to brag on God and the mysterious way He sometimes works. For the last 1 1/2 years my office at the South Fork Visitor Center flooded with tourists who I’ve pointed in various directions, telling them where to go to enjoy the best parts of the area. Ironically some of the very places I would send people with such authority and confidence I had actually never been. Wheeler in particular. I have an unofficial list of places I want to visit and experience in the area while I have the opportunity and geographic incentive to do so–a secret list. Although not everything I want to do has made the official “next list,” Wheeler was a big enough gem to officially make #25. But I don’t own an ATV or know of very many people that are physically capable or willing to hike 14 miles on a whim.
So imagine my surprise just one day after miserably failing in the attempt to hike a fourteener (#26 on the list) of getting a 7:00am phone call with an opportunity to go to Wheeler that day. The local ATV group (aptly named the Silverthreaders Outdoor Club with most members of the retiree 65+ variety) was heading out at 9:00am and one of the riders had an extra seat! Whaaaaaaaaat? After almost two years of trying to beg, borrow, bully, and bribe my way to Wheeler I had an immediate and surprise invitation to go in less than two hours. I love it when God opens doors!
Two hours later as I sat on the back of a roaring and rumbling ATV trekking the 28 miles to the coveted destination, I had to laugh. When I put Wheeler on the list I had envisioned hiking in and experiencing this wonderment with a group of good friends, celebrating our athletic journey and determination–maybe even on a camping trip with s’mores and stars and good beer. Instead I found myself sharing the adventure with a group of generous and well-seasoned outdoor lovers with more wrinkles, grey hair, and good stories than an AARP convention. Today’s reality was completely different than the vision I had in my head when putting it on the list. But I wouldn’t trade it for the world.
It reminded me of the lesson I learned when completing #29 on my 30×30 list…hot air ballooning. As a twenty-something putting “hot air balloon ride” on the list I had envisioned more of a romantic experience with a special someone, maybe in wine country or an exotic vacation location, and not what really happened.
For the hot air balloon experience I had always envisioned an incredibly romantic date with champagne and kisses and lots of bright colors and flames. (Can you tell I’m a hopeless romantic?) Reality was, at the time I was just months away from turning the big 3-0 and so stinkin’ close to crossing off the final items on the list, but had chosen to enter back into singlehood with no special someone to fulfill the romantic balloon dream in my head. (That’s a whole other story.)
I had a decision to make. Was I just going to let that item slip by because in my dreams I had hoped someone would surprise me with it? Was I willing to risk not crossing off one of the very last items on the 30×30 list that I had been working on for years just because it wouldn’t be how I envisioned it when I penned the idea years ago?
I had to make a decision. I could wish and hope for someone to plan my balloon adventure and run the risk of being disappointed when it didn’t happen, or I could choose to face the current disappointment of doing it differently than how I originally imagined. Face it, there are things within our control that we have the power to manipulate and change, and there are things that are out of our realm of influence and we just have to make do with what we have been given. I realized that I had been given an incredibly fabulous set of friends who had enjoyed the 30×30 journey with me and had been extremely supportive throughout the years—why would I not want to include them in one of the last items on my list? No doubt some of them had lived their dreams vicariously through me as they encouraged me to keep ticking them off the list. Why would I want to disappoint them by giving up on the last item and not finishing what they helped me start? I had wanted the balloon ride to be a special, romantic, and a private moment when in reality I had the power to make it a memorable event to share with lots of people I cared about.
As I kept thinking about it the more I got excited. I had the power to turn a disappointment into a celebration. It was then I decided for my 30th birthday I wanted to celebrate it with all my friends in a hot air balloon. Why stop there? Why just make it about me when we could celebrate the birthdays of all my friends who were also born in the Fall? We could all have a big balloon for our birthdays! To my surprise, as the save the dates went out an overwhelming response of support flooded back in. There were people who had no intention of going up in a balloon themselves but wanted to come anyways and help celebrate with both feet firmly planted on the ground. I lovingly nicknamed our non-flyers “cooler jockeys.” One friend said she was so excited to help cross off one of the last 30×30 items and she couldn’t wait to find out what was on my next list! And so what began as a rather disappointing goal started turning into an opportunity to not only celebrate the end of an era with loved ones, but to literally look towards the sky and kick off the next set of adventures, along with the next decade! Yes, we even made t-shirts.
So today I sat on the back of an ATV for 28 miles crossing off a much desired item on my list in a not-so-desired way and couldn’t help but laugh. Had I not learned my lesson from my balloon experience? It won’t always look like the picture in my head. Again, it won’t always look like the picture in my head. I thought that I learned long ago that God will fulfill the desires of my heart…but it doesn’t mean that He’ll do it like how I pictured. Actually, more often than not He won’t. God is way too big and way too amazing to be put in a box and limited to my small imagination. Maybe one day I’ll finally learn that for good.
QUOTABLE QUOTES FROM PEOPLE MUCH SMARTER THAN I:
“Delight yourself also in the Lord, and He will give you the desires and secret petitions of your heart.” Psalm 37:4 (AMP)
“And the Lord answered me and said, Write the vision and engrave it so plainly upon tablets that everyone who passes may [be able to] read [it easily and quickly] as he hastens by. For the vision is yet for an appointed time and it hastens to the end [fulfillment]; it will not deceive or disappoint. Though it tarry, wait [earnestly] for it, because it will surely come; it will not be behindhand on its appointed day.” Habakkuk 2:2-3 (AMP)
“It’s a disappointment to lose key players. On the other hand it creates an opportunity to play other players.” – Tom Moody
Four more days until I cross the finish line of this 30 day blog challenge! I know you can’t see it, but I just did the dance of joy. It’s exciting when you get to a point of being so close to finishing a goal or something you’ve worked hard on. Pretty sure that’s how I became addicted to running and completed a full marathon and three half marathons in one year.
I lied. Truth be told I have never been addicted to running. I don’t even like it. At all. Still don’t. But that feeling and the rush of crossing the finish line is what is addicting, and in 2007 I begrudgingly caught the running bug. After being relocated in California for the third time for a job and a promotion, I had to start all over again as the new girl in a new city. I was struggling. Pretty sure my friends were tired of my complaining, as evidenced when one of them got sick of it and asked me if I had thought about joining a running club and training for a marathon. Funny girl. I had never run more than 2 miles in my entire life, so the possibility of running 26.2 miles was far beyond comprehension.
She’s a good friend and quite convincing. Before I knew it I had signed up to join a running team and was going to make the attempt to train for a full marathon through Team in Training–an organization that fundraises for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society by training people to run or walk long distance events. Twenty-six point two miles…yeah, I’d call that long distance.
She thought it would be fun to challenge me to train out here in California while she trained back in Colorado, and then pick a race to run together. Not only would it be a healthy and stress-relieving activity, but it would also link me to a group of other active individuals with similar passions while being a part of a bigger picture and promoting a great cause. Sounded like a good plan. One problem, I hated running and had never run more than two miles in my entire life! It’s not that I wasn’t athletic or pathetically out of shape, I just hated running. I admire people who do it, but I personally found it excruciatingly painful and boring. Apparently this meant nothing to my dear friend in Colorado because she signed me up to go to an information meeting at my local library that following Saturday, and sent me the address and meeting time. I got the hint.
Unsure of exactly what I was committing myself to, I took the challenge. When I told my family that I was going to run a 26.2 mile marathon and fundraise over $3,500 in five months to benefit blood cancers, they practically laughed in my face and patted me on the head. It’s not so much that they were unsupportive as much as they knew how much I hated running, let alone running 26.2 miles. But this organization and program was designed to help people just like me to do exactly that, begin a goal with no experience from ground zero. The coaches and mentors gave advice from what kind of shoes and athletic wear to buy to what to eat. They even organized us into pace groups and gave us tailored training schedules so we would be with other people of the same skill levels. And to my surprise, there were people as slow and even slower than I was and having just as much fun. We met twice a week for training workouts that built up our endurance in slow and manageable increments, as well as gave us tools and tips for successful fundraising to meet our financial goals while at the same time hitting our fitness goals. Want to talk about commitment? Four months of 6:30am practice runs every Saturday. That’s commitment.
When I joined the running team I didn’t know anyone who had ever completed a full marathon, and now I was surrounded by people who were training to do just that! Each week after our Saturday workouts I would call my family back in Colorado and tell them how many miles I ran that morning and what it was like. They’re skepticism eventually turned into cheerleading as I entered into the fitness level of being able to run double digits. The day that I ran ten miles I thought to myself, “It really looks like I might go through with this!” Although I don’t think anyone really believed me until I actually crossed the finish line and had the picture to prove it.
On January 7, 2007 my Colorado friend and I met in Orlando, Florida and crossed the finish line at the Disney World Marathon with our arms in the air, sweat in our eyes, and smiles on our faces. We were joined at the finish line by her husband, a friend who flew in to support us, and another of my Colorado friends who trained through Team and Training and ran the Disney ½ marathon the day before. A first for all of us. I caught the race bug and ended up running four more races that year.
Crossing that finish line after 26.2 miles shifted something in me. Through that experience I learned several things: 1) that it is possible to set big, hairy, audacious goals; 2) that I need the help of others to achieve them and I can’t do it all on my own; 3) that there is planning and preparation involved in order to achieve success and the desired results; 4) and that there will be obstacles to push through and many, many temptations to quit. And most of all, that the effort is worth it. Running a 26.2 mile marathon is not normal. Less than .02% of the world’s population ever attempts to do it. But I found a group of amazing people who encouraged, motivated, and trained with me to achieve a goal I thought was unachievable. And in meeting my fundraising goal to benefit those with blood cancers I was actually able to help others in the process! Some of my dearest friendships in California came out of this experience. And several other friends have since trained and completed their first marathons as well. They looked at me and figured if I can do it—the very slow anti-runner—then anyone can do it. This one event set me on fire and gave me the momentum to cross off more than twelve items on my 30×30 list over the next two years.
It’s okay to set goals that seem impossible. In fact, I dare you. And the best feeling is when you reach the point where you’re almost there. Ok, the best feeling is actually crossing the finish line, but there is a magic moment and a tipping point when you realize how hard you’ve worked and that you are almost there and are going to make it. Don’t quit. And if you have, re-start. You may be just around the corner from the finish line. Crossing the finish line is worth all the sweat, tears, pain, and effort…it is.
Run towards your finish line even if you can’t see it yet. Don’t let it elude you. It’s there. Go get it.
When I originally created my 30×30 list several years ago, I almost put “get married” on the list. Almost. A happy, healthy, long-term relationship–sounds like a normal thing for a twenty-something girl to want, right? So why isn’t it on the list? If it’s something I want someday in my future then that seems like a natural thing to put on the list, right? But as I thought about it, I wanted to put things on my list that were within my realm of control and my sphere of influence. I didn’t want to limit something so monumental and life-changing to a number and a check on the to-do list. Why would I want to set a deadline that would put undue and undeserved pressure on something that I was only 50% part of the equation? Getting married is not a “to-do” item. That is a season of life all its own that will come naturally and in its own time. Who am I to put a deadline on that?
There have been two times in my life that I have had to make some tough decisions regarding entering into that commitment and that season of life, and twice I chose not to. If it’s not right, it’s not right. It seems more acceptable to have been married and divorced at this age than to not have married at all. I don’t generally get accolades for choosing to not enter into something that wasn’t right and for not being a divorce statistic…typically no bravos for making good choices up to this point. Sometimes it takes more strength to walk away than to stay. Too many people get married just to get married, forcing something that deep down they know better. They do it because they think that’s what’s expected of them, or because that’s what’s supposed to be next, they don’t think there’s anyone better, or because they’re afraid to be alone. There are a lot of reasons why people get married, not everyone does it for the right reasons. We’ve all seen it. Heartbreaking.
I’m sure there are some people reading this right now that might admit to themselves, “That’s me, I’m in that category.” Refusing to settle for “right now” is not anti-marriage or being too picky…it’s being strong enough to know where you’re at and being stable enough to be selective about who is in the seat next to you throughout life’s journey. Choose poorly and the journey is going to be an extremely rough one.
So I left that little item off my list on purpose, and I am so glad I did. There is a spontaneous streak in me that can be dangerous at times. I know this about myself. In order to avoid panicking and the temptation to do something rash–like wake up in Vegas or order a mail-order groom—I decided instead to leave that particular life’s desire off the official list and leave my heart up to my Maker and his timing…and not Vegas or the mailman. But just because I purposefully chose to take the pressure off myself and be released from that numerical deadline doesn’t mean everyone else is okay with my decision.
I’ve noticed that my singlehood can make people uncomfortable. They want to “figure it out.” I’ve even had a co-worker sincerely ask “Why hasn’t anyone scooped you up yet?” True story. Try answering that one. The look on his face and his puzzled expression was priceless. There’s this weird and unspoken underlying expectation in society that if I’m to be considered normal, by the time I turn 30 I’m to get a degree, get a career, get a car, get a husband, get kids, get a house and oh, by the way, look and feel the best in my entire life. Is anybody else’s head spinning from the pressure? What happens if all that doesn’t happen in that short ten year time frame? Ten years seems like such a wee amount of time to fit so many momentous things if I have over 80+ years to live. What if I don’t have all those things or do all those things in my twenties, am I a failure? I may want them or desire to someday have them, but if they don’t happen in the allotted time frame of my twenties, is there something wrong with me or did I not do something right? With all the amazing things and blessings I’ve experienced in my life, why am I judged on that one thing?
Not everyone meets that special someone in college or within the first five years after high school. If you did and that’s your story, congratulations! I love my friends who did and I have had the honor of standing in many a wedding celebrating their next chapter. But if you didn’t find that special someone early on and you’re still waiting, trust me, you’re not the only one. God has an individual plan for each and every one of us and it does not look the same or like any body else’s personalized plan.
Growing up my mom used to smile at me and say, “You certainly break the mold!” I’ve heard this more times than I can count. I don’t know if I break any molds, but I certainly don’t fit into one. My story is not the standard stereotypical story. It never has been. Honestly, I would probably be disappointed if it were. Just because I’m okay and have peace with the twists and turns in my journey does not mean everyone else is.
People can get weird about this. Sometimes I dread the standard introductory questions when first meeting new people because I don’t have a standard introductory answer that’s comfortable. And since I work with the public, it happens a lot. “Are you married?” seems to surface almost every time. My standard answer usually falls somewhere along the lines of, “Not that I know of,” complete with a smile and a giggle to match theirs. Often times I can see it run across their face even if they don’t say the words. “Why not?” I can see them sizing me up, internally asking themselves “I wonder what’s wrong with her. She looks normal. Seems like a good catch. Pity.” This is not in my head. I’ve actually had a gentlman in a coffee shop sit down next to me and say that very thing after less than three minutes of conversation. No joke. I’ve also had a perfect stranger ask me if I’m gay right after asking me if I was married. People need to put me in a box, they need a label. I can’t blame them, they just don’t understand. I’ve become quite excellent at changing subjects.
Leaving that off the 30×30 list was intentional. Putting “a marriage more beautiful than the wedding” on the next list was too. God blessed me with the inspiration of the 30×30 list and then equipped me to accomplish 29 of the 30 items. (For more on the one thing that didn’t happen, see my previous post.) He’s even more involved with this Next List, because I’ve asked Him to be. As I create the Next List, I have a new trust and faith that I didn’t have before.
Will there be items on this Next List that are unanswered prayers? Maybe. But that’s a risk I’m going to need to be willing to take. Timing is everything and I trust that my steps are ordered and that God will keep me moving in the right direction. He’s got this whole thing covered. Eventually that direction will be down an aisle and into a happy, healthy relationship, but until that day comes I have a lot of other fabulous goals and adventures to keep me engaged until then. When it comes to the man in my life, I know he’s worth the wait. Extraordinary takes time. And if somehow he’s reading these words right now, he’s probably smiling. Cheers to the next list and all that comes with it!
While sitting at the drive-in movie theater noshing on candy and vanilla soda, I started thinking about intake. I loved slurping my oversized Sonic soda while curled up in the car, munching on a few Reese’s pieces while tuning into 88.1FM to watch the movie through the bug-splattered windshield. (Mini lesson–make a trip through the car wash if going to the drive-in. It’s worth it.) There’s just something about movies and overpriced theater snacks that are fantastic guilty pleasures and a fun way to enjoy the summer. I don’t go to the movies very often–let alone the drive-in theater–so for me, it’s a treat and usually a good night out.
Intake. Over the course of the evening I started taking note of everything I was ingesting, from the shrimp tacos at dinner to the copious amounts of sugar that goes along with the silver screen. But I didn’t just consume food that night, I also digested multiple media messages through an art show earlier in the evening, movie previews, three hours of Hollywood, several songs on the ride home, and some interesting conversation to boot. All in one evening I consumed food, words, music, media, movies and more. I fed my mouth, my body, my mind and my brain.
The question needs to be asked, what are we feeding ourselves? With the consumption of so many messages coming from all different directions, what is it that we’re consuming? Are the words and the lyrics and the messages I let enter my world shifting me in a positive or a negative direction? This isn’t just a one time thing, these are daily choices. Just like my choice to load up on junk food came with the post-sugar crash (and boy did it), my choices in what and how I consume other things come with their own consequences, for better or worse. They can affect my attitude, my perspective, how productive I am, and the way I treat others.
I don’t need a whole lot to test this theory, just a few songs from different playlists in my I-pod ingested on a roadtrip can set the tone for an entire afternoon. Dance party or tears–all it takes is a tune to set the mood. Just like when I feed my body junk food and I feel junkie afterwards, when I feed my mind junk I will feel equally so. When setting goals–especially big hairy audacious 30×30 type of goals–it’s important to pay attention to what messages you’re feeding yourself. This will play a big part in motivating you as you focus on your goals, whatever they may be. If we are what we eat when it comes to food, what does that mean when it comes to filling our minds?
Now that’s some food for thought.
QUOTABLE QUOTES FROM PEOPLE MUCH SMARTER THAN I:
“Much more surprising things can happen to anyone who, when a disagreeable or discouraged thought comes into his mind, just has the sense to remember in time and push it out by putting in an agreeable, determinedly courageous one. Two things cannot be in one place.” ― Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Secret Garden
Happy happy happy. There’s all this talk about being happy. The pursuit of happiness, the happiness project, the happy movie, and on and on and on. And really, who doesn’t want to be happy? Happiness is not a bad thing. We’re wired to want it. We’re built to experience it. But it seems to be so fleeting, so temporary, and sometimes so unattainable.
I had an interesting moment yesterday observing my mom. Little background–she owns and operates a bed & breakfat and the tasks to maintain and keep the place functioning are endless. She has always been a motivated, hard-working, and creative woman who has never been afraid of rolling up her sleeves and tackling a project. These are the characteristics that have lead to the success and transformation of a run-down barn house that had 7 different colors of shag carpeting and 70’s paneling to what is now a beautiful and successful bed & breakfast. I admire her in that respect.
But what I observed yesterday was a woman who fourteen years later has not taken the time to enjoy the very dream she created. Ok, this observation was not just a one-time event that occured yesterday, but a conversation and a confrontation in the laundry room opened my eyes to something that will hang with me for a long time.
I love her with all my heart, but my mom is a “Martha Martyr.” Work for her will never be done. Never. As soon as one project or task is completed, there is no time to enjoy or take it in before the focus is shifted to the next 1,000 tasks. She not only works hard, but she thrives on creating projects and doing them in front of people…and then gets upset and miffed that they aren’t working as hard as she is. No one works as hard as she does. She will not ask for help, will not accept help, but she will be quite upset if help is not offered. This is a woman who will not even take the time to feed herself or feels guilty for stopping to drink a glass of water, which is a rare occurance. She does not sit. Needless to say, my mom is not happy.
But more importantly, she is not at peace. Happiness is a feeling, peace is a state of being and a place where your heart can rest. You can be at peace with something without necessarily being happy with it. Is that really what we’re all seeking after anyways, not happiness but true peace? There is a difference.
Peace comes when we take the time to slow down, take a breath, and listen to what God has for our lives. Both big picture and little details. He’ll be involved with both if we ask Him to. If we are constantly in motion, how on earth are we ever to hear that still small voice that has all the answers? Some of us probably don’t want anything to do with that. And if we don’t slow down, how are we ever going to catch those magic mini-moments that are so special? And then we wonder why we’re not “happy.” I know, I’ve been there. I’ve chased and pursued the things they say are supposed to make us happy. I’ve gotten a lot of them. But the ever elusive happiness factor seems to fade far quicker than it should. Those thoughts of “I’ll be happy when…” or “If I only had XYZ I’d be happy” or “When this happens, then I’ll be happy” are peace killers and joy suckers.
I remember a moment just this past May that has stuck with me in regards to this subject matter of happiness. For one weekend my mom shuts down the B&B and invites friends and family over to work on maintenance projects–think slave labor with lots of good food, sweat and smiles. It must not be all that bad because people keep coming back year after year. It was at this year’s work weekend that my 3-year-old nephew was a part of a secret project to surprise grandma “Lolly” and left his mark and little boy artwork in the newly cemented stone steps. It was precious, she was going to love it. The time came for the big reveal and the entire group was marching across the lawn with 3-year-old Calvin in the lead, chattering away and telling us to “hurry up.” I watched as my mom turned around halfway there and headed back into the house to switch one more load of laundry that just couldn’t wait ten minutes. My heart sank as she later re-emerged and said “Ok, I’m ready. Show me.” But the moment had passed. Everyone had already dispersed and was loading into their cars to go home. She had missed it.
It was that moment that I wondered just how many moments over the years she had missed because something like laundry couldn’t wait. How many moments have I missed? If I dwell on that too long that thought will haunt me. It’s not my job to change her. It’s not my job to judge or criticize her. Yes, we need to work hard. Yes, we need drive and motivation and focus in order to get things done and accomplished. But we also need balance. We need those little moments. We need to take the time to slow down and take it all in. Because they don’t wait. Those magical little moments–the ones that make us smile and create the mini moments of happiness–they don’t wait for anyone.
I’m personally asking that as I go throughout my day and do the things and tasks that I need to do that my eyes will be opened and to have a special awareness of those magic mini-moments. I know they’re out there. I don’t want to miss one. Not a single one.
I like this concept of 30. The 30×30 list in and of itself was challenging and rewarding, but even in applying the number to this blog challenge has been quite entertaining. I have a very different feeling about this blog challenge sitting on day 20 than I did while writing on day 3. At some point during a goal there is a shift from “I wonder if I have what it takes to do this?” or “Is this ever really going to happen?” to “We’re not there yet, but this is really going to happen!”
I’ve noticed a change in my attitude and perspective from the old 30×30 list and the next list. After seeing the blessings and the accomplishments through the experiences of the 30×30 list, the next list seems a lot less intimidating for some reason. What’s different about this list than my last one? Do I have less demanding goals on this next list? Am I not challenging myself enough or taking the easy way out? Actually, those are all the wrong questions.
I’m a numbers girl, I like being able to set goals and track something. Numbers allow you to do that. Saying, “I want to get healthier” is a far different goal than saying, “I want to reduce my cholesterol by 30 points,” or “I want to drink 80 ounces of water every day for the next twenty days.” Or another example, saying, “I want to be rich” is harder to define than saying, “I would like $XXX,XXX in the bank by the time I’m age XX.” Defining what rich looks like to you is far more important than just using a generic term to set a goal. (Personally, the term “rich” to me is far more than a dollar sign and includes healthy relationships, peace of mind, fulfilling accomplishments or callings and more. But enough on that.)
I noticed on my next list that I left some items general and some are quite specific. That was on purpose. For example, some travel destinations I just want to check out, fulfill a curiosity, and be able to say I’ve been there–like Lake City or Telluride. Other destinations I have a specific activity in mind that I want to do while I’m there, like photographing Niagara Falls or scuba diving in the Great Barrier Reef. For me, it’s not enough to just go and get the postcard, but I want to feel the mist, capture the beauty on camera, and experience the sea life of that part of the world. I did this on the 30×30 list too. I didn’t just want to see the Statue of Liberty, I wanted a picture with her. (I owe an apology to my girlfriends–we took 2 ferries and battled fog for half a day in order to check this one off the list. Thanks ladies.)
I have found that while creating this next list the questions that have helped me are more along the lines of the following:
In ten years, what would I look back and regret not doing if given the opportunity to do so?
What specifically in my situation do I want to change?
What specifically do I want to experience?
What am I called to do?
How do I fulfill what I’m called to do?
What is scary to me?
What do I think will never happen?
What do I want to tackle right away and what is part of the long-term vision?
What am I going to look back and smile about?
The thing is, my list is mine. It’s not going to look like anybody else’s list. Sure, I have similar desires and dreams as a lot of other people, as human beings we’re wired that way. But the specifics are unique to me. And that’s why it’s important to be detailed on some items and to leave other items vague. Some goals I am focused on the “how” where other items need to have flexibility and room to breathe. All have faith involved. Years from now will the final list with dates and checkmarks look anything like the list today? No. But that’s half the fun.
One of the largest lessons I learned from my 30×30 list is what life looks like when we’re drifting vs what life looks like when there are goals and a plan. I don’t like drifting. I don’t mind relaxing or changing course, but I want to know there’s a destination. And what better way to put down on paper (or on a blog) what that destination looks like to you. The biggest lesson learned is that no matter what, learn to enjoy the journey…every step and detour along the way. Cheers to the goals attained, goals already in place, and the goals that are yet to be.
It’s party day. Summer’s winding down and before you know it, it won’t be campfire and s’mores weather anymore. So before the chill really settles into the Southern Colorado hills, it’s time to gather the troops and kick back by the river to celebrate what has thus far been an extremely interesting summer. And now that the fire ban has been lifted and things have settled down since the evacuations earlier this summer, we can finally enjoy stories around the fire pit again. (Relax. We are pit professionals. It’s 10 feet off the river, has a metal cover, and meets all codes and regulations. We even have a permit. All is well.)
Parties and little shin digs like this are right up my alley. Love them. Who doesn’t like getting good friends together over brisket, coconut cream pie, and a beer or two? I have a new appreciation for mini social occasions like this because not too long ago I couldn’t have any. There was a time when I went over a year of not having anyone over. Very unlike me. Not for dinner, not for drinks, not even to watch a movie. I was on social lockdown.
No, this was not out of depression, a friend shortage, or tightening the budget. This was partially out of necessity and partially by choice. The whole point of moving to the little town of South Fork was to help out with an aging grandmother who, bless her heart, was starting to need more care from my mom than she could give her. It happens, that’s life. If blessed to live that long, we’ll all get there someday. I was just glad I was in a position and had the opportunity to be able to do so.
Little backstory–my parents own and operate a bed & breakfast by the river in a little mountain ski town called South Fork in Southern Colorado, roughly four hours from Denver. About seven years ago they built a little house on the property and moved my Ginnymom there in order for her to be closer as she needed more care. Well into her eighties, she had reached that stage in life that she just needed to be closer, and there she lived for the next several years in what we eventually deemed “the cottage.”
When I was home visiting for the holidays one fall, conversations took place on how things were shifting and it was time to look at other options. After just moving back to Colorado, I just happened to be in a place to be able to be the perfect option. The goal was to keep her out of a nursing home and with us as long as possible. No in-home care tech here…I was the assisted living. And interestingly enough, there just happened to be a position in my field open and advertised in the local paper when I just happened to be in town for Thanksgiving. I just happened to apply two days before the deadline, just happened to make it through an 8 person panel interview and a rather amusing and rowdy voting session by the town board, and I just happened to get the job as the marketing director for the town. (God’s funny in arranging things like that.) So boom, before I knew it I was the newest (and probably youngest) resident of South Fork living in a cute little cottage by the river with an eighty-eight year old for a roommate. Not exactly where I had pictured myself at this stage in my life.
I look back and I find this situation somewhat amusing. See, of the 30 things on my 30×30 list, there was only one of them I was not able to accomplish…owning a home. I so desperately wanted one. Came close several times, but for one reason or another something would shift or change and it just never happened. Living in California during the whole housing bubble boom and bust, it is a huge blessing in disguise and God-wink that this never happened. It’s true, unanswered prayers sometimes are the best answers after all. But that didn’t stop my “homelessness” from being a touchy subject and something that continued to pull on my heartstrings well after the 30×30 list wrapped up.
Over the last 1 1/2 years I stayed tucked away with Ginnymom in the cottage, getting used to small town life. Admittedly, it took some adjusting. I’ve been financially independent since I was eighteen and had been a twenty-something living on my own in L.A. before my adventures took me to South Fork. Learning to live next door to my parents and I had to learn to live and adjust to an elderly grandmother. She’s a wonderful lady, and although quirky, I am the one who was blessed while taking care of her. I had to remind myself of that every now and then when we became two cranks in a cottage. If I ever needed to get out of small town life, Denver and a myriad of friends were just a car ride away and always waiting to play.
It wasn’t until Ginnymom had a series of strokes this last January that forced the decision to invoke nursing home care that I realized exactly what had happened. Besides the obvious, my life in California was very different than my life in South Fork. Trust me, I knew South Fork wasn’t L.A. when I chose to move there. That was not the shocker. I hadn’t thought much about it until she was no longer in the cottage–but it wasn’t my house, so I hadn’t had anyone over to enjoy it in the entire 1 1/2 years I had been living there. I hadn’t really watched much TV because it wasn’t my TV. I hadn’t had people over for dinner because it wasn’t my kitchen. I may have been living there, but it wasn’t my household–it wasn’t my home. Out of respect for her, I went out when I needed to play. The first time I finally did have friends over to make sushi one night, that’s when it finally hit me how long it had been. Funny how you don’t always recognize the strange until after it’s over.
Even though I’ve physically resided there almost two years this winter and it’s been over 6 months since she made her final departure from the cottage, I still have a hard time having people over. Even though I’m the only one living in the cottage now, in my mind I am still a guest and this is temporary–an absolutely wonderful and enjoyable right-on-the-river-temporary, but still temporary. As much as I love it here, it still doesn’t feel like home. I don’t think I want it to. But I know God placed me here on purpose with a purpose and while I am here I intend to enjoy every minute of it.
So it is with excitement and a smile that I continue to help make preparations for the brisket and bonfire endeavor tonight. Who knows how many more of these we’ll have before I am no longer here and can have them in a house of my own? Owning a home…don’t worry, it’s on the next list. *Big smile*
I like pina coladas. And this summer I had the unique opportunity of getting caught in a true Colorado rainstorm. Not on purpose mind you, but I couldnt’ have planned it better if I had tried. A group of us had taken a road trip to Steamboat Springs to invade the trails and enjoy the holiday weekend. (For those who have never been there, it’s a cute little Colorado mountain town that is completely worth the drive. Put it on your list.) Out of the seven of us, there were multiple personalities and plenty of varied interests, so our adventures included everything from shopping to hiking to even a tubing trip down the river. We even figured out a way to have a dance party in the tubes. It can be done.
One of the many daytrips included a group of us taking a little jaunt down to the flower sanctuary just over the train tracks and through a trailer park. Yes, I said trailer park. I think we went out of pure curiosity. Apparently not a great judge of weather conditions, we were barely there long enough to sniff three flowers when the thunderclouds rolled in and did what clouds to best. Let loose. With almost a mile to trek to our condo, I thought we were going to take cover in the nearest gas station, but apparently I was mistaken. I forgot I was with a group of ultra marathoners–they decided to outrun the storm. They’re so stinkin’ fast that I think a few of them might have succeeded. I however, am not an ultra marathoner, and not feeling all that ambitious I decided that running in wet flip flops was not the best idea. Especially considering one of my many nicknames growing up was “Crashley.” No one wants to be wet and eat pavement. No thank you. So I slowed down, smiled wide, and got ready to get 100% soaking, sopping wet.
I haven’t laughed that hard in a long time. Quite frankly, I was a little overdue for a laugh like that. It felt like drops were coming up from the street they bounced so hard. I looked like a drowned rat by the time I walked up the hill back to the condo. Not a single stich of clothing was dry. Cars honked and I’m sure people pointed and stared. Ask me if I cared! And of course, I couldn’t complete my flip flop walk without singing out loud and on purpose the ever loveable pina colada song. It’s true, I did. In life storms are going to come and we are going to get caught. It is purely our choice whether or not we choose to dance.
I discovered that afternoon that yes, I did like pina coladas…and I absolutely like getting caught in the rain. Especially a Colorado mountain thunderstorm. Although it wasn’t officially on my list, I highly recommend adding this one to yours if you’ve never done it. And for bonus points, be sure and sing the song too.
Most of us are not living lottery lives. Mostly this is because the majority of us have never won the lottery. And statistics show that most of us never will. But what exactly is a lottery life, and do you really need to win the lotto jackpot in order to live the life you’ve always wanted?
One of my favorite road trip games to pass the time is to ask my fellow road-trippers what they would do and how they would live if they won the lottery. The fun is in hearing the different responses and dreams and the creativity behind a mind not cluttered with financial restrictions.
You hear of lottery winners going broke and becoming destitute, spending every penny they have on lotto tickets or developing a gambling problem. So very sad. They have missed the point completely. Buying a lotto ticket, at least for me, is not so much about winning the money as it is about truly allowing myself to dream—if just for a minute—about a life without restrictions where I could truly live my dreams. Of course actual lottery winners find themselves dealing with a whole other set of problems involving taxes, scams, strains on relationships and unknown addictions. But you can actually play the “lottery life” game and get the benefits of dreaming without ever playing the lottery…it’s called visualizing.
Occasionally when playing the lottery life game I’ll run across a person with the response, “That will never happen so why even think about it?” Or, “That’s a waste of time and money.” The question is not really, “What would you do with the money?” as much as what do those dreams really look like if you were given a chance to truly live them? Some people just aren’t willing to allow themselves to ask that question.
That’s a scary thought. The lottery question makes some people uncomfortable because they don’t know the answer to that question. Our current lives can be so far buried in responsibilities, pressures, and debt that it can almost be too painful to even think about. Or the idea of actually winning the lottery (because after all, we’ve all seen the astronomical odds of hitting the jackpot) is so out of reach that we don’t even want to think about it or get our hopes up.
For a lot of us in our minds, money equals freedom, and freedom equals happiness. Therefore in the American mindset money equals happiness. So if we don’t have a lot of money than think we can’t be happy. We think if we could just get X amount in the bank account we would be liberated from our problems and be that much happier. So if we don’t have X amount of money, what does that mean? That we will never be happy until that happens? I beg to differ.
I believe we all have passions, dreams, talents and giftings but I think very few of us have the courage to figure out what they are and how to develop them, let alone actually use them. I am not advocating playing the lotto or endorsing gambling, but I wholeheartedly encourage anyone to allow themselves the freedom to dream and think about what it is in detail they really want and then having the courage to take action towards that and go get it.
It’s very scary to admit your dreams and true desires because what if they don’t come true? Then we’re left with unfulfilled dreams, feelings of failure, and broken hearts—and who really wants that? It’s easy to think the thought, “If I never allow myself to think about it or talk about it then I won’t be disappointed.” Unfortunately that won’t work. We are wired to have hopes and dreams, life is unfulfilling and miserable when we don’t–both for us and the people around us. I believe we can live out our “lottery lives” and feel fulfilled even if we never ever win the lottery.
What do you first think when I tell you that you can live your dreams and experience the happiness of a lottery life without ever winning the lottery? Is your first gut reaction, yeah right? Or are you intrigued? Can you actually let yourself, just for a moment, believe that there are good things out there that are beyond your wildest dreams? We so often get crushed and trampled down by the monotonous routines and commitments of our everyday lives that we forget that there is adventure and beauty just waiting for us to discover.
More than anything, my 30×30 list was an avenue that allowed me to speak out loud the desires and dreams of my heart and go after them on purpose. It breaks my heart that most people forget to dream. Maybe more people should buy lotto tickets–not to actually win, but to allow themselves to have vision and dream big. I think I’ll go get one tonight.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned from this Dirty Thirty experience it’s that people will come along for the ride. They will. I learned early on that if I took the initiative and planned something, no matter what it was, there was always someone else who would join in on the fun–but nothing, absolutely nothing would ever have been checked off if I didn’t first initiate the plans. Very rarely will people have the drive to make the effort and do something on their own, so stop expecting someone or something else to make arrangements for you.
I was, however, pleasantly surprised in how many people joined me on my journey. Yosemite National Park was one of those pleasant surprises. I have always wanted to go and see this outdoor wonder and found out that reservations needed to be made about 4-6 months in advance. I don’t know about you, but getting people to commit to something next week is difficult enough, let alone six months from now.
I asked around to see who was interested on a road trip to Northern California and didn’t quite get the huge response I was looking for. But knowing that campsites fill up quickly I made the reservations and put down the deposit to hold a tent cabin at Curry Village. (And yes, it is actually a tent-cabin. I didn’t even know they existed, but they have them at Curry Village in Yosemite National Park.) I decided I would rather make reservations and take the risk that the trip might not happen then wait and find out later on that there’s no availability and not be able to go at all.
I told myself that if I had to go alone in order to cross this off my list, then so be it. Obviously I would rather have friends come with me, but I was not about to let a lack of support stop me from accomplishing #25 on my list. I figured I was a big girl, I could handle a weekend by myself. It might even be good for me. I had come too far already to be thwarted by someone else’s lack of enthusiasm. Turns out, three girlfriends were game for a road trip, so we all piled in a car for a girl’s getaway to go camping in Yosemite National Park. I think we giggled the whole five hour drive up there.
This is not the only item on my list where I had to make the first initial plans to do something whether anyone else would do it with me or not, but it was the one that I realized that other people were counting on me for their own adventures. In the car ride on the way home they asked me what the next thing was on the list—they wanted to know where we were going next. “This was fun Ash, where are we going next?” These girls had helped me cross off New York, seeing a Broadway play, wine tasting in Temecula to celebrate graduation, and skydiving. But sitting in that back seat on the way home from Yosemite was the first time I realized that my list was not my own, I was not the only one looking forward to crossing things off my list.
I have since discovered that if I am willing to organize and take the first steps to plan and put things in motion, there is always someone who will tag along and join in on the fun. I like to call these people tag-alongs. (They won’t put in the effort or ever start their own projects, but they’ll always hitch on to someone else.) And that is okay. The world needs leaders and followers. Be the leader in your own life and invite others to follow you in your journey.
On the road trip of life, you can pack the car, pick the destination, and turn on the ignition long before and without the help of anybody else. Once all the preparation and menial tasks are done, don’t be surprised when other passengers want to get in beside you and tag along for the ride. Let them.
Let’s talk about golf…and how I can’t. I was reminded of this recently when out on the range at the local golf club and found myself explaining to my golf partner why he was suddenly and unexpectedly playing best ball. (For all you non-golfers out there, best ball is when you play off of whoever’s ball is in the best location for the next shot. I kind of like to call it “free for all” golf. My favorite.)
Part of what has been so enjoyable about this 30 day blog challenge is going back through the old list and recounting the steps taken on each item. Ahhhhh, memories. I have to laugh when I come across “learn to golf” on the list because, really, at what point do you consider yourself “learned”? Golf is a lot like math or a foreign language–if you don’t use it you lose it. And since I pretty much now only go out for the annual Father’s day round with my dad, any skills I did have I have pretty much kissed goodbye. So how can I claim to have crossed “learn to golf” off of my list when obviously the only way I play is goofy golf? That’s simple. It was never about golf to begin with.
Golf, like photography, is one of those things that is a constant work in progress. The more you do it, the better you become. When I slapped that particular item on the list I was working in an industry where a lot of business is done out on the golf course. Being that I was one of the few women in a heavily dominated male industry–and I wasn’t a golfer–I was at a slight disadvantage. Golf intimidated me. I am totally ok with business meetings being held out on the green, I just don’t like not being invited to them.
On one of my business trips, some of my fabulous co-workers signed me up for a golf tournament as a joke, fully knowing that the only kind of golf I had ever played was putt-putt. A wise and kind soul took pity on me and gave me a heads up, secretly setting me up with two lessons at his country club. Friends, you cannot learn how to golf in two lessons.
I seriously thought about calling in sick, because quite honestly, I felt sick. The last thing I wanted to do was be the butt of all golf jokes with a bunch of executives. I was prepared to be mortified and dreaded the embarrassment I knew was to come. What I did learn and was not expecting at all, was that the joke was on them.
Although my two lessons did not make me a golf superstar, what they did do is impress the boys that I even made an effort to learn their game at all. Apparently they liked the fact that I even made the attempt and that I wanted to get out and play with them. And that day, in that particular tournament, I got a whole 18 rounds of golf lessons with some very intelligent and likable businessmen. Instead of making me feel like the annoying little sister tagging along on the course, they made golf fun for me and officially introduced me to the game. (And they even taught me how to cheat. Yesssssss!)
Over the next couple years I played in many many golf tournaments, learning the art of shmoozing on the course, and I now know the difference between an iron, driver, and pitching wedge. I can see why guys like the sport so much. There is nothing not to like about getting out and enjoying the outdoors for a few hours, partaking in a little smack talk, losing a bet or two, and of course, making skid marks in a golf cart.
Although my golf game will never probably look like a “real” golf game, I have to say I do like to make the attempt every now and then. The whole point of putting it on the 30×30 list was to not be intimidated by the game any more. Golf, and the fact that I knew nothing about it, intimidated me. I hate being intimidated. Especially by something as silly as a little white golf ball. Although I will never be the next Tiger Woods or Phil Mickelson, I can cross “learn to golf” off my list in good conscience because I am no longer intimidated to throw on my golf shoes, hit the green, or be bossed around by a little ball. Much. I do not need to have mastered the game to be the master of my list. (Although I need to make sure that those I play with know that we’re more than likely going to be playing goofy golf. I’ve even had a game of golf turn into croquet. Be forewarned.)
QUOTABLE QUOTES FROM PEOPLE MUCH SMARTER THAN I:
“There is a stubbornness about me that never can bear to be frightened at the will of others. My courage always rises at every attempt to intimidate me.” ― Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice
I have been to the school of fear. Some people call it bungee jumping, but I call it the school of fear. And I got schooled. Several friends in my master’s program were able to witness my journey as I crossed several things off my list over the years that we were together, and some of them actually created 30×30 lists of their own. (Side lesson: the 30×30 list can be contagious.)
Bungee jumping was never on my list, but when a friend wanted to cross the activity off of her own list the adrenaline junkie in me just couldn’t say no. As I was standing on the bridge I wish I had. I was more terrified to bungee jump and leap off the bridge than I was to go skydiving. I know, it doesn’t make sense, but it’s true. I was excited and nervous to go skydiving, but I did not have the paralyzing fear that I experienced during my bungee adventure. I was downright terrified—and this wasn’t even on my list!
Maybe in the back of my mind I thought that if something goes wrong while skydiving, life just ends with a really fantastic view. That, and I will have gone crossing something off my list, making me one happy girl. But if something goes wrong bungee jumping, the survival rate and the probability to receive injuries that can last a lifetime are much greater. These are the thoughts that went through my head. Completely rational, right? But I stared fear right in the face, screamed, and leapt off the ledge like only a crazy person would. And kept on screaming…I think there might have been a few expletives in there as well. Oops.
Jumping off a bridge is not normal. But as I stared at the group of us that were lined up to do so, I realized there were a lot of us that weren’t normal. This just reaffirmed that although I am not normal in any sense of the word, I am not alone. I may be crazy, but I am not the only one. (I might as well have a good time and enjoy my lunacy, right?)
Actually, I did it twice. I jumped off a bridge of my own volition not just once, but two times. That’s not normal either. But I learned a lesson about myself that I may not have figured out as quickly if it weren’t for this experience. My first jump was a forward leap where I saw what I was doing and where I was heading (which was straight toward the rocks and the river below) and yet chose to make my body do something my brain didn’t want to do.
The second jump was a backwards leap where I had to make a conscious decision to let go of what was safe and fall backwards not knowing or being able to see where I was going, trusting the rope and harness to do its job and protect me. That was so much scarier! It took two countdowns and extra sweet talk from the bungee instructor before I could let go and just fall. This really surprised me. I didn’t think I would have such a hard time, especially after I had already jumped once. But there I stood on the bridge platform, paralyzed with fear. I couldn’t fall backwards.
Afterwards when our group of fifteen jumpers went to dinner to celebrate, I was even more surprised to discover that most people had an easier time falling backwards than jumping forward. I couldn’t help but think, “Maybe I’m not as normal as I thought. Oh great, I’m not even normal among crazies!” Then it occurred to me that even in life there’s not only a fear of moving forward into what we perceive as scary, but there’s also a very real fear of letting go and trusting that it will be okay no matter what happens. Both are very different fears and very different kinds of trust, and both are also very, very real. It’s not that one is any better or worse than the other, but whether it’s moving forward or letting go, letting the fear paralyze us into inaction is never a good thing.
Doing nothing is still a choice. Inaction is still a choice. Even if I chose not to move or to freeze, the fact still remained that I was on the edge and I would continue to be afraid until I either jumped off or moved back over the railing to where I was before. Either way there were consequences. If I chose to jump I had to get over all the fear that entailed, but if I chose not to jump and get back onto the safe side of the bridge I would have to be okay with missing out on the experience and the adventure. I hate missing out on adventure. Ultimately I was not okay with that option and chose to move past my fear and make the leap, and I am so glad I did! Honestly, I don’t ever want to do that again, but I am very thankful that I took the opportunity when I had it and I know that I would have regretted not doing it. That’s the beauty and the power of choice—I can make the choice to do something and take the risk, and also have the power to choose not to experience that again. My personal philosophy is to try it once, and if I don’t like it, I don’t have to do it again!
So thank you bungee jumping, for making me realize that I have more trouble letting go and more fear of moving backwards than I do pushing forward. Good to know. And thank you to the crazies–I’m glad I’m not the only one. And thank you to my friend, for inviting me to be a part of her adventure. I had so many people support me as I was checking things off my list, it was really a treat to be on the other side and be able to do that for someone else. That’s the funny thing about lists, sometimes the best things aren’t even on them.
QUOTABLE QUOTES FROM PEOPLE MUCH SMARTER THAN I:
“I’m not afraid of death; I just don’t want to be there when it happens.”
― Woody Allen
“There are two basic motivating forces: fear and love. When we are afraid, we pull back from life. When we are in love, we open to all that life has to offer with passion, excitement, and acceptance. We need to learn to love ourselves first, in all our glory and our imperfections. If we cannot love ourselves, we cannot fully open to our ability to love others or our potential to create. Evolution and all hopes for a better world rest in the fearlessness and open-hearted vision of people who embrace life.”
― John Lennon
I found a video I created awhile back, highlighting some of the good times in the 30×30 journey. Admittedly, I had to watch it through my fingers (the amateur status is that painful, really), but it was really fun to revisit certain things that I hadn’t thought about in years. Some things even got a nervous giggle and an eye roll or two. Cooking lessons? Really? I almost completely forgot that getting a fuzzy friend was on my list–I live and love on Mojo every day, yet somehow I forgot that he was ever on the list in the first place. Sorry Mojis! After watching the video and reviewing the list itself, I decided to post the list in its entirety–something I haven’t really shared with the “public.”
So here you are–the official list and all the dates that go with it right here on this very blog. (Check out the tab labeled “The List” for the big reveal.) It’s been really fun to look back and remember the progression and the momentum that built up surrounding this personal challenge, and all the people involved in making it come to life. When asked about my list, some of the 30×30 items just naturally float to the top of the list–like skydiving and completing that master’s degree. But there are certain things that fall through the memory cracks and seem to get buried under what I call the “sexy conversation items.” Everyone wants to talk about skydiving and swimming with dolphins. Eyes light up when they hear of the 10 day raft trip down the Grand Canyon, cruising the Med, or camping in Yosemite. But somehow it just doesn’t seem as engaging to talk about the “unsexy items,” like drafting a will, setting up a 401K, or organizing photos. Boring, I know. But those snoozer items are still items that were important enough to make the list. They’re important to me.
My point to this whole nostalgia piece is that not everything on the list has to be blow-your-socks-off cool or difficult to the n’th degree. Otherwise you can just create a “places to travel” list. That’s fun, do that too. But as human beings we are multi-faceted and have different degrees and levels of interest, creating things that challenge us in varying ways. So why not have a list that reflects that? Face some fears, put on some dreaded tasks and items of procrastination. Why not throw on a couple “that’ll never happen’s?” I dare you. The thing is, it’s your list. Do with it what you want. But start it. Then maybe years down the road you can look back and laugh at what’s on there…maybe even through a couple of fingers and some eye rolls.
I feel very fortunate and blessed to have been able to cross off 29 of the 30 things on my 30×30 list (see previous post for more details), and although that particular list is done, it’s been crossing my mind a lot lately. It’s been two years since the “official” 30×30 list had been completed and celebrated with a hot air balloon ride, but some recent events have led me to revisit the concept of writing and opening up about that journey as I’m entering the next one. What does this look like? A blog of course. So here I am.
The new challenge: to write or “blog” over the next 30 days.
That seems like a lot of writing and perhaps a bit of an overkill. I agree. But since I don’t really know what I’m doing, why not just stick with the number 30 and go from there? So, here is day one–a tip toe into the first step of this goal. Tip tip toe. I don’t know who is going to read this or what they’ll get out of it, but I invite whoever to join me on this journey–whatever twists and turns it may take. So cheers to the next 30 days (whatever that looks like!)
A few years ago I went through what I now call a quarter-life crisis around age 25 and decided to make a list of 30 things I wanted to do before I was 30 years old. To address this funk head on, I played hookie from work and took myself out to coffee to get my attitude in check and a fresh vision of where I wanted to go. And thus my dirty thirty list was born–the 30×30 list, if you will…and so far I have been incredibly blessed to have crossed off 29 of those 30 items! The most recent was celebrating my birthday with friends in a hot air balloon. Not bad, not bad at all.
This wasn’t just a list of lifelong goals, I’ll-do-it-someday, or “bucket list,” but something much much more than that. Bucket lists or lists of goals and dreams are certainly not a new concept, nor are lists with distinct timelines (think New Year’s resolutions), but this 30×30 list of highly defined goals jumped off the page into my every day life and became a reality in the journey of setting goals for the different “buckets” that are important in my life. There’s my education bucket, financial bucket, romance bucket, travel/adventure bucket, fitness bucket, and spiritual bucket. I had lots of buckets that needed to be filled with dreams and ideas, memories and friendships. I quickly realized that I was not the only one out there with empty buckets waiting to be filled, and soon discovered people not only wanted to help me cross off my own 30×30 list, but create and accomplish lists of their own. Game on!
Skydiving, acting in a play, rafting the Grand Canyon, swimming with dolphins, and getting my master’s degree were just a few of the items on the list. I love receiving e-mails and communication updates of 30×30 lists from those I’ve met along the way. I am a firm believer on the importance of setting goals for every season of life, regardless whether you’re 18, 28, or 58. And the list for this decade will probably not look anything like next decade’s dreams. If I can do it, anyone can do it. Really. We all have dreams–it’s whether we have the courage, perseverance, drive, gumption (and stupidity) to go after them. One of my favorite parts of this whole 30×30 experience was meeting others with dreams of their own and helping them fulfill their own buckets…and that is what having a 30×30 list is all about. So the question remains…what’s on your list? What have you done or are in the process of doing? Tell me your list and I’ll tell you mine!